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Tiger commits to golf in the Gulf

The planet's best-known sportsman has firmly linked the pull of his global celebrity with the stunning entrepreneurism that has made Dubai such a magnet for the rich, famous and ambitious.
By HT Correspondent | AFP, Dubai
UPDATED ON FEB 12, 2008 10:04 PM IST

Tiger Wood's breathtaking win in the Dubai Desert Classic last week has further sealed the emirate's position at the hub of world golf's rapidly-changing landscape.

The planet's best-known sportsman has firmly linked the pull of his global celebrity with the stunning entrepreneurism that has made Dubai such a magnet for the rich, famous and ambitious.

Woods chose Dubai for the site of his first venture into golf course design and he has already said that he will be back next year to defend his Classic title.

The world No.1, though a golfing traditionalist at heart, happily admits that he is a convert to the brash expansionism that is the mark of this desert oasis.

"What they are doing is frankly phenomenal," he said.

"I haven't seen anything like this and I don't think really anyone, anywhere around the world has seen this type of growth and golf is one component of it.

"Just in this area since the years I've been coming here, the skyline keeps changing, keeps evolving and people keep coming here and thoroughly enjoy it.

"I certainly think golf is a big draw here."

Woods of course is not alone among top players in jumping onto the Dubai bandwagon.

Colin Montgomerie and Ernie Els have already lent their names and design expertise to golf course development and Greg Norman, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia have joined their talents in drafting the stunning four course Jumeirah Golf Estates layout themed around Fire, Water, Earth and Air which is still under construction.

The new additions will bring the total number of golf courses in and around Dubai up to around 20, a remarkable achievement for a country that depends on treated sea water to turn parched, barren land into glistening greenery.

It's all part of Dubai's bold plan to use golf as a vehicle to lure tourists, businessmen and developers from Europe, the United States and Asia and it appears to be working.

In a stunning development late last year, the European PGA Tour which had the foresight to spill out of its traditional frontiers 20 years ago when it organised the first Desert Classic in Dubai, announced that its long-established Order of Merit contest would be retooled as The Race to Dubai as of next year.

The climax to that would be what is being billed as the world's richest golf tournament, a 10million dollar extravaganza known as the Dubai World Championships which will be held for the first time in November 2009 at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

In keeping with that, the European PGA Tour has announced it is opening its new "international offices" in Dubai joining a growing exodus of sports organisations, such as the International Cricket Council, to make the move.

Already this year, the European Tour schedule has 14 events in Asia and the Middle East and only nine in Britain and Ireland sparking calls for it to be re-named in some way to reflect this globalisation.

The flip side of this eastern expansionism is that some long-established tournaments like the French, Italian and Spanish Opens are struggling to attract the big names and doubts have been cast over their futures.

Those who are not complaining, however, are the players such as Ernie Els who are enjoying substantially bigger paydays and all-year round competition.

"You can talk about a World Tour but The European Tour is already pretty much a world tour," the South African said last week in New Delhi ahead of the inaugural Indian Masters, another new frontier for the European Tour.

"I think they have done a good job, done their homework through the years and made good relationships with other tours and other countries and I think they have the basis of that now.

"Obviously if you get the purses up you will get the players to come and play there as well and it is becoming bigger.

"If you look at China and Asia and this region here and the Middle East, you can already play a full schedule without going to the US if you want to."

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