Colin Montgomerie launches his campaign to become Number One in the Volvo Order of Merit for a seventh successive time when he tees up at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club for the tenth Dubai Desert Classic.
Montgomerie won the event in 1996 when he produced one of the finest shots of his career to overhaul Miguel Angel Jiménez. Faced with a daunting 222 yards carry over water and another 15 yards to the flag on the final hole at the Emirates Golf Club, Montgomerie hit a driver 240 yards to within 15 feet of the hole from which he two putted to secure victory.
Twelve months ago José Maria Olazábal claimed the title when he picked up three birdies and an eagle in his last eight holes to come from three shots behind. It was his second win since an enforced 18-month break through illness.
Olazábal returns to Dubai to defend the title and will be joined by a field that includes the current Masters and Open Champion Mark O’Meara and other major championship winners Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam.
With Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Patrik Sjöland and Lee Westwood also in the starting line-up to complete the top five players in the 1998 Volvo Order of Merit, the Dubai Desert Classic, sponsored by Dubai Aluminium, promises to be an enthralling tournament.
The tournament takes on even greater significance as the final event on the European Tour for players to get into the top 64 in the Official World Golf Ranking and qualify for a place in the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship, the first of three World Golf Championship events this year.
This year the event will be played at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club for the first time. The magnificent clubhouse - its design mirroring the sails of the traditional Arab dhow - became an instant landmark when it opened in 1993.
The fairways and approaches are narrow, demanding precision, and water hazards abound. One of the course’s six lakes separates the tee and green on the par three eighth, two more lakes await on the 10th, while the 17th and 18th, lying alongside the Creek, make for a memorable finish. Water figures in 11 holes on the course.
Although both the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club and the Emirates Club are designed by the same architect, American Karl Litten, the two courses could not be more different. While the Emirates lies on the edge of the desert and makes use of natural features including a wadi, the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club is essentially a tropical course that forms the centrepiece of sport and leisure complex which also incorporates a 115-berth marina.
Work started on the course in September 1990, on a area of 180 acres on the north bank of the tidal basin known as Dubai Creek which runs through the heart of the city. Close to half a million cubic metres of earth were moved to give the course its shape. To support the abundant greenery in the hot, dry climate an irrigation system of some 40 kilometres of undersoil piping and 700 computer-controlled pop-up sprinklers was installed.
The result is a sporting oasis in the heart of the city that promises to provide a fresh and exciting challenge.