Two-time US Open Champion, South African Retief Goosen and two-time World Golf Championships winner, Ulsterman Darren Clarke have joined the world-class field for the Emirates Airline Invitational hosted by Abdullah Al Naboodah at Yas Links Golf Club, Abu Dhabi.
The addition of World No.15 Goosen increases the number of Major winners in the field of 52 European Tour Professionals to four, which includes 42 European Tour Champions, 12 Ryder Cup players and the World No.1 and No.5, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell.
The Emirates Airline Invitational on January 17 will be played in a fourball format as two two-man teams with one Pro per team. Among the amateurs taking part from the world of entertainment, commerce and sport are former England cricketers Michael Vaughan and Allan Lamb, DJ Spoony, ex-international footballers Jamie Redknapp, Ruud Gullit and David O’Leary, who is also current manager of UAE club Al Ahli.
“To have Retief Goosen and Darren Clarke join us for the fifth running of the Invitational is another big boost, particularly now it has become the curtain-raiser for the four-tournament European Tour Middle East Swing,” said Abdullah Al Naboodah at a Press conference at Yas Links Golf Club, Abu Dhabi.
“With Emirates Airline as our Title Partner, the Invitational has been raised to a new international level. It is also a huge boost to the charities that we - and the Professional Tour players - support.”
Emirates is also pleased to be supporting a local event which has attracted a world-class line-up.
“Emirates is proud of our involvement in golf around the globe – we sponsor 21 tournaments in all, including The Ryder Cup and 10 others on The European Tour International Schedule,” said Nadim Lahad, Emirates’ Manager, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.
“However, local events – which help promote the UAE as a premier sporting, business and tourism destination - are particularly special to us.
“Our golf portfolio already features the Dubai World Championship, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Omega Dubai Ladies’ Masters. It is tremendous then to be strengthening our commitment to the sport further by sponsoring one of the world’s most prestigious Pro-Ams and we look forward helping it continue to grow from strength to strength.”
Goosen, who is playing in the event for the first time, is looking forward to making his debut at Yas Links. “The Invitational has gained a big reputation as an outstanding Pro-Am and I know from what the Tour players have said, it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said the South African.
Graeme McDowell, the World No.5, earlier this month received another accolade to add to his MBE, his joint European Tour Player of the Year and his European and US Golf Writers Player of the Year awards, by winning The European Tour Shot of the Year for his 15-foot birdie putt that sealed victory for Europe in the Ryder Cup last October.
The 2010 US Open Champion said: “That putt on the 16th was the best I’ve hit in my life. In the context of The Ryder Cup, that was massive. I was aware that everything was riding on the outcome of my singles match and I knew that a half point was still not good enough to regain the Cup. It was as important as any stroke I will ever play in my career and I am delighted it has been voted The European Tour Shot of the Year.”
Having finished third in his first event of the PGA Tour season, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, shooting a course record 11-under par 62, McDowell is eagerly anticipating playing the Emirates Airline Invitational. “The Invitational has always been a fantastic event but with Emirates as Title Partner this year it’s going to take off.”
World No.1 Lee Westwood added: “Now that Darren is playing I can go one better than sharing the Professional event with him as we did in last year’s Invitational. The added interest that the Emirates Airline Invitational has attracted through their Title Partnership is just reward for everything Abdullah has put into the game and it will also help enormously to raise funds for the charities.”
Ross Fisher, reigning Volvo World Match Play Champion and 2010 Irish Open Champion, commented: “It’s good to see Retief and Darren joining the Invitational. It’s going to make it even more competitive – and even more fun. Their involvement is another example, with the support of Title Partner Emirates Airline, that it’s an event that all the players really look forward to taking part in.”
For further information and to register for free tickets visit: www.emiratesairlineinvitational.com.
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