DUBAI - Reuters
Northern Irish star McIlroy is among the players that will take the field this week. REUTERS photo
European Tour officials are keen to launch a second ‘Desert Swing’ in the future, tournament committee chairman Thomas Bjorn said.
This week’s Dubai Desert Classic represents the final leg of the tour’s annual three-week stint in the Middle East that also takes in the Abu Dhabi Championship and the Qatar Masters. Bjorn told Reuters on Feb. 7 that senior officials also wanted to branch out to other Gulf states.
“We hope places like Oman and Kuwait and maybe Saudi Arabia can also be hosts of European Tour events,” said the 40-year-old Dane.
“That would be the tour’s dream, that we could have an extended tour in the Middle East maybe two times a year ... preferably have a swing at the beginning of the year and a swing at the end of the year.”
The Dubai Classic is the oldest of the three existing tournaments, having started in 1989.
“Abu Dhabi at the moment probably gets the strongest field but this event in Dubai has the history,” said Bjorn. “They are all fantastic events, with great golf courses and facilities. From a players’ point of view that’s what we look for.
“We accept that not everything can be perfect but this is as close to perfect as it comes. I think that’s why it’s so popular with the players - it’s a great start to the season.”
Bjorn said he was delighted to see world number two Rory McIlroy, third-ranked Lee Westwood and number four Martin Kaymer in this week’s field.
“When you look at the entry list here it’s strong,” he added. “When you have guys like Lee, Rory and Martin - they have other options.
“They could easily take this week off and go and play in Los Angeles next week (at the Northern Trust Open). It shows how much support they want to show for these events that they come here.”
The Dane has won 13 times on tour, including the Qatar Masters, Johnnie Walker Championship and European Masters in 2011, and has started this season in reasonable form.