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23 July 2024

Class gulf most apparent in Gulf region

By Joy Chakravarty

Sometimes, I just don't understand the pros. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to play the sponsor's day of the South African Open, which was held at the stunning Pearl Valley Golf Course.

During the tournament, the course appeared ridiculously long at approximately 7,400 yards. But on the day we played, it was pouring buckets, the fairways were hardly rolling, it was windy, and I swear the yardage was close to 17,400!

I was recently talking to Henrik Stenson on his favourite courses and he happened to mention Pearl Valley in that list. And considering Stenson mostly tees off with his 3-wood, I was quite interested in what he thought about its length.

"A relatively short course." With that one short sentence, Stenson broke all illusions I had about my distance off the tee.

And then there was an instance on Wednesday during the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship Pro-Am. The rough at the National Course was brutal, to say the least. I only managed to lose about half a dozen of balls in that thick stuff! Mind you, I am not counting the balls I lost in the water.

Then came that man Stenson again. You ask him about the rough, and he goes: "I think the rough is a little bit more generous in some areas compared to last year". Generous? You could have hidden an elephant in there! And I am glad I did not play the Pro-Am last year.

Now you know why we amateurs are so much in awe of the professionals. They can hit shots from the deepest bunkers to tap-in distance, while we stay in the bunker for hours and are called 'Lawrence of Arabia' for our efforts. They can hit through the narrowest of gaps between the trees, while we stay in the woods and are called 'Tarzan' by our friends. They reach the longest of par-fives in two, we reach there…eventually.

So, what really is the point of this week's column? Just that in the next couple of weeks we have the opportunity to see some of the very best exponents of the game in action. Starting with the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship this week, and then the Dubai Desert Classic in a fortnight's time, we can draw some inspiration that should, hopefully, better our own games.

Here's a short list of must-watch events during these two tournaments: Alvaro Quiros' humungous drives; Stenson's awesome three-woods; Sergio Garcia's immaculate iron-play; Padraig Harrington's grit; Ernie Els' smooth swing; John Daly, the man; Jeev Milkha Singh's unusual, but most effective swing; David Howell's putting technique, and much more. Happy watching.

- Joy Chakravarty is the Editor of Middle East Golfer