Defending Omega Dubai Desert Classic champion Stephen Gallacher and seasoned Fred Couples have been drawn to play alongside world number one and pre-tournament favourite Tiger Woods in the last group of the Champions Challenge at Emirates Golf Club on Tuesday, January 28.
The 18-hole stroke-play showpiece will provide a great spectacle of golf when former champions of Omega Dubai Desert Classic contest a $600,000 prize fund as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the oldest European Tour event outside Europe.
The only former winner missing from the illustrious line-up will be the great Seve Ballesteros, who sadly lost his battle with cancer at the age of 54 in May 2011, but the presence of his son, Javier, will keep the ‘Seve Spirit’ alive and invoke memories of the golfing legend’s victory in 1992.
Javier, who made his debut on the Challenge Tour in April last year, is paired with fellow Spaniards Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal, the trio going out at 11:20.
"With so many big names in the field, it will be fun to play in the Champions Challenge. I am really grateful to golf in DUBAi for remembering my father and giving me the chance to play,” said Javier.
"I really appreciate their gesture and congratulate them on behalf of my family on the 25th anniversary of the event," said Javier, who won the amateur Madrid Open in 2012.
Ernie Els, the winner of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic a record three times, will join Mark O’Meara and Colin Montgomerie in the second last grouping that tees off at 11:50 while European number one Henrik Stenson will play alongside Mark James, the winner of the inaugural event in 1989, and Thomas Bjorn.
In another interesting pairing, Rory McIlroy, who at 19 years and 273 days, became the youngest winner of the event 2009, is paired with 1990 winner Eaamon Darcy and Australian Richard Green.
With so many featured groups, it will be interesting to see who comes out of the gates strongly.
As always, though, most of the attention will be focused on Woods, a two-time winner of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, who is looking forward to his seventh appearance at the tournament.
“I appreciate the support I have received from the people in Dubai and I always enjoy playing in their tournament, said Woods, who won the 2006 and 2008 Classics.
“They have an outstanding field all the time, and the golf course (Majlis) is really in great shape,” he said ahead of the tournament.
The Champions Challenge, which will see the winner walk away with the top $300,000 prize, will also provide the former champions to have a good look at the well manicured course before the main action begins on Thursday, January 30.
Champions Challenge Tee Times on Tuesday, January 28:
11am: Mark James (England), Henrik Stenson (Sweden), Thomas Bjorn (Denmark)
11.10: Alvaro Quiros (Spain), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spain), Jose Coceres (Argentina)
11.20: Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain), Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain), Javier Ballesteros
11:30: Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Eamonn Darcy (Ireland), Richard Green (Australia)
11:40: Wayne Westner (South Africa), Robert Jan Derksen (The Netherlands), David Howell (England)
11:50: Ernie Els (South Africa), Mark O'Meara (US), Colin Montgomerie (Scotland)
12:00: Tiger Woods (US), Fred Couples (US), Stephen Gallacher (Scotland)
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