Leading players gave their support for the new Dubai World Championship, the richest tournament in world golf, and the new Order of Merit, The Race to Dubai, at last week’s South African Open, staged at Pearl Valley Golf Estates near Cape Town, the first course outside UAE to be owned by Leisurecorp.
Retief Goosen led the plaudits, saying, “I think it’s been great. I’ve played more in Europe this year than I’ve played in America so it’s definitely great to see The European Tour getting what it deserves. I think it’s about time for America to see that there are other Tours out there. We all know that Dubai is the big growing place in the world and the golf courses are great.”
His fellow South African, Trevor Immelman, said, “I think it’s quite incredible what they’ve done, for Dubai World to come in and have this partnership with The European Tour. It’s obviously really going to be a shot in the arm for The European Tour to have this end-of-season tournament worth that’s so much money.
“When you go to Dubai, the facilities are so fantastic over there and the golf courses are so fantastic over there. It’s going to be a great end of season event for the European Tour and I think they’re really going to start attracting the top players and it’s going to turn into something quite serious.”
And Tim Clark, who currently plays on the USPGA Tour, said, “It’s certainly made me look at my schedule and reconsider joining the European Tour! It’s important that the European Tour continues to go from strength to strength because it fuels the USPGA Tour, it fuels golf worldwide, so it’s a big step. I think it’s great for them.”
Greg Norman, playing at the South African Open for the first time, is involved in designing three of the courses at Jumeirah Golf Estates, which will host the Dubai World Championship.
When asked if he’d made changes in light of the announcement, Norman said, “I didn’t have to do much to the golf course. I pride myself on the fact that we do build golf courses that have the capabilities to be able to cater for high-end play or for residential play for the average golf.
“The only thing we did do was look at things like spectator flows, compounds for TV, where they put the vans, grandstands and so on – all the things you don’t look at on a regular basis as most courses never have a major event.”
Norman said he believed the new events were of major importance for the game – and he welcomed The Race to Dubai as a way to attract the best players. “It’s the most positive thing I’ve ever seen happen to the game of golf. It’s not built around one player, it’s built around a process to get to the biggest tournament in the world and that process is you have to play 11 events on The European Tour, no matter who you are, and to get there you have to do it. It stimulates the game of golf on a global basis.”
David Spencer, chief executive of Leisurecorp, which owns both Jumeirah Golf Estates and Pearl Valley Golf Estates, said he was delighted with the reactions of the players. “We’re very, very excited. We’ve done something together with The European Tour which really enhances golf in Europe the Middle East and Africa. I think these reactions endorse that view.”
Pearl Valley Golf Estates www.pearlvalley.co.za