Top-ranked players will set the tone when they feature in the 2015 Omega Dubai Desert Classic Challenge Match on Tuesday to kick off tournament week at Emirates Golf Club.
The two-man scramble on the back nine of Majlis course will see defending champion Stephen Gallacher of Scotland team up with world number two Henrik Stenson as they tee off at 3pm along with the pairing of Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer.
World number one Rory McIlroy is paired with Sergio Garcia while Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood will complete the line-up as the two teams get their challenge under way at 3.10pm in what promises to be a fun-filled affair, offering fans a chance to watch their favourite players in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.
The Challenge Match has traditionally been a greensomes affair on the par-3 course at Emirates Golf Club, but after the success of the 2014 “Champions’ Challenge”, which saw every past champion compete for a share of the $600,000 purse, the 2015 edition will once again take place on the premier golf course in the region, albeit only over the back-9.
Promoted and organised by golf in DUBAi, the 26th edition of the tournament itself wears a truly global look with players from 25 countries represented in one of the strongest 132-player fields ever assembled in Dubai.
Included in the field are seven Major winners who between them have won 15 of golf’s coveted titles. They are McIlroy (four), Ernie Els (four), Kaymer (two), Jose Maria Olazabal (two), McDowell, Clarke and Louis Oosthuizen. If the Omega Dubai Desert Classic is popularly referred to as the Major of the Middle East, it is with good reason.
Ringing in the New Year with an impressive second-placed finish at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, McIlroy appears primed to build on his early season form as the Northern Irishman bids to regain the title he won in 2009.
“It will be fun to get back to a golf course where I had won my first title as a professional,” said the 25-year-old Ulsterman, who incidentally also made his first cut in a European Tour event here, as a 17-year-old amateur in 2007.
He will have to be wary of defending champion Gallacher, who will be aiming for his third win to match the feat of the great Ernie Els, who himself will be on hand to try and extend his long-standing record. While McIlroy enjoyed a phenomenal 2014 on the course, highlighted by victories in the Open Championship and PGA Championship, the Bathgate man also made some considerable noise, making a winning Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles and rising to number 35 in the world.
First class entertainment is guaranteed with Kaymer returning to Dubai after three years. The German ace, who finished runner-up to Tiger Woods in 2008, thanks to his birdie-birdie-eagle finish, has one more reason to get the job done after his final day in the recent Abu Dhabi Golf Championship where he finished third despite holding a 10-shot lead mid-way through the final round.
Potential storylines are aplenty with the likes of world numer two Stenson, England’s Westwood, a three-time runner-up in Dubai, Spain’s Garcia and Northern Ireland’s McDowell bringing their own power, flair and exuberance to the game.
Whatever the outcome in 2015, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic has treated fans to some pretty good theatre over the years, something that has become the norm on the majestic Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club.
Daily tickets for the whole week, including the Challenge Match, are available through www.dubaidesertclassic.com. Members of GOLF CITIZEN, the online golf reservations website launched by golf in DUBAi in 2011, have been offered a special 10 per cent discount on all tickets purchased through the tournament website. Golfers from around the world can register as a ‘GOLF CITIZEN’ for free and buy their tickets online.
Eighteen and unders will be given free entry to the tournament if they are accompanied by an adult who is holding a valid ticket for the day.
The Omega Dubai Desert Classic is backed by OMEGA as the title sponsor and Emirates Global Aluminium PJSC as sponsor. The co-sponsors are: CNN, Drydocks World & Maritime World, Emirates NBD, Gulf News, Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels, Mercedes and wasl, while Dubai Duty Free, Neocasa Interiors and Motivate Publishing are the Patrons in golf in DUBAi’s drive to showcase the emirate’s vibrant golfing scene to a worldwide audience.