The world rankings could wear a new look depending upon how the planets would align and how the top three players featuring in a star-studded field fare at this week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club.
Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods, the top three in that order, will battle it for honours for the first time since October with an eye of the rankings in what promises to unfold an absorbing battle in the sun.
The sizzling trio will be joined by defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez, world number eight Rory McIlroy, Asia number one Seung Yul Noh and golf in Dubai ambassadors Mark O’Meara, Thomas Bjorn and Jeev Milkha Singh in the 138-player field, the biggest ever to assemble in Dubai.
Promoted and organised by golf in Dubai, the longest-running European Tour event outside the continent has truly a global look to it with players from 27 countries represented. If the Omega Dubai Desert Classic is popularly referred to as the Major of the Middle East, it’s for a reason.
All eyes will be on Woods, who will be aiming for a third win in Dubai to match the feat of South Africa’s Ernie Els, the only other multiple winner of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Arguably the greatest golfer of all time, Woods opened the year with a middle-of-the-pack finish at Torrey Pines, but sounded confident ahead of the tournament, saying: “I always enjoy going to Dubai and I like playing in the tournament. There’s an outstanding field all the time and it’s a really good golf course that’s in great shape.
“Winning takes care of a lot of things, including being No. 1 in the world, and I haven’t done that lately. I am encouraged about the future and I’m looking forward to this year,” said Woods, who joined forces with Canadian swing coach Sean Foley last August.
“My goal every year is to get better, and that’s what I want to do this year,” added Woods, who fell to third for the first time since Vijay Singh and Ernie Els occupied the top two spots in 2004.
With Westwood, who kept his position as world number one when nearest rival Martin Kaymer finished well off the pace in the Qatar Masters on Sunday, determined to shake off the early season blues, the prognosis points to a thrilling battle for supremacy.
“I’m practicing on the range to try and get some kind of rhythm back in my game," said the 39-year-old after missing the cut at Qatar Masters.
Germany’s Kaymer, who needed to finish at least a runner-up to reach the summit of rankings, is not worried about being number one or Tiger going past him. “As long as I am in the top five on the rankings, it’s fine,” he said after posting a tied 28th finish in Doha.
“It is, far and away, the best field ever seen in Dubai,” Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice-chairman and CEO of golf in Dubai, said, adding: “The fact we have top three players joining the field clearly reflects on the profile of the tournament in world golf.
“It’s always been our constant endeavour to try and assemble the best possible field. We have been doing that thanks to the enthusiastic support of the players,” said Buamaim. “But the tournament is all about history and tradition. Its reputation is built on the collective presence of the world class players,” said Buamaim.
The tournament will be preceded by a Challenge Match on Tuesday, starting at 6pm at the par-3 course of the Emirates Golf Club.
The match, featuring Westwood, Woods, Jimenez, Mark O’Meara, Jeev Milkha Singh and Noh Seul-yul - offers fans a rare opportunity to watch the marquee players up close and personal as they deliver a ‘clinic’ in wedge play.
Pro Am, the traditional curtain-raiser to the event, will he held on Wednesday with two shot guns starts at 7.30am and 12.45 pm.
Tiger Woods, representing the golf in Dubai Chairman team, tees off in the morning while Westwood, who will spearhead the Omega team, plays in the afternoon.
Defending champion: Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain)
Past winners: 1989 - Mark James, 1990 - Eamonn Darcy, 1992 - Seve Ballesteros, 1993 - Wayne Westner, 1994 - Ernie Els, 1995 - Fred Couples, 1996 - Colin Montgomerie, 1997 - Richard Green, 1998 - Jose Maria Olazabal, 1999 - David Howell, 2000 - Jose Coceres, 2001 - Thomas Bjorn, 2002 - Ernie Els, 2003 - Robert-Jan Derksen, 2004 - Mark O'Meara, 2005 - Ernie Els, 2006 - Tiger Woods, 2007 - Henrik Stenson, 2008 – Tiger Woods, 2009 – Rory McIlroy, 2010 - Miguel Angel Jimenez.
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