As well as a fantastic golf course in an idyllic setting, the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic also offers another tantalising prospect, namely the appearance of European Number One Lee Westwood and World Number One Tiger Woods.
Woods, of course, had a fantastic season last year, winning three major titles while Westwood won six times to help him dethrone Colin Montgomerie from the top of the Volvo Order of Merit for the first time in seven years.
The Dubai Desert Classic represents both players’ first appearance on the 2001 European Tour International Schedule and both men admitted they were relishing the challenge that the Majlis course at the Emirates Golf Club will present.
“I’m ready to go now,’’ said Westwood, whose 13 week winter break represented the longest period away from golf in his professional career. “I feel very keen, much keener than I have done in recent years.
“You need a break sometime, not just to rest, but to reflect on what you’ve achieved in previous years and I felt at the end of seasons in the past I haven’t had that chance. I got here on Friday and did a bit of work on Saturday and Sunday while it was quiet before everybody got here. I did some good work, so I’m looking forward to the start of the tournament.”
Westwood also admitted he was looking forward to locking horns with Woods again, the man he memorably came from behind to beat in last May’s Deutsche Bank – SAP Open TPC of Europe at Gut Kaden in Hamburg.
“Yes, it is nice when Tiger is in the field. Obviously when you beat the World’s Number One then the title always means a little bit more. I think that’s why the majors mean that little bit more because they always have the best fields on show.”
Returning the compliment, Woods admitted he was looking forward to lining up alongside players of the stature of Westwood.
“I think any time you get one of the top guys in the world, whether it’s me or one of the top guys here (in Europe) such as Westie, Colin and Darren, it gives the tournament a feeling of automatic credibility.
“On top of that of course, there are a lot of world ranking points so the event has even more to play for in terms of moving in the world rankings. It just makes the tournament even better.”
Another aspect both Westwood and Woods concurred upon was the condition of the course at the Emirates Golf Club. “It is in absolutely fantastic shape,” said Woods, while Westwood offered the opinion: “It’s in great condition, the best I’ve ever seen it.”
The American continued: “The fairways are perfect and the greens are running true and smooth. It’s a little bit different to what we’re used to playing on at the moment, so it’s nice to get out there.”