In a year when golf lost the most flamboyant and charismatic character the game has ever known, it was somehow fitting that The European Tour’s glittering end of season tournament was won by a man cut from precisely the same cloth as Seve Ballesteros.
Alvaro Quiros not only shares the same handsome swarthy features and dazzling smile that, like Seve, lights up every room he enters, the 28 year old from Guadiaro also plays the game in precisely the same swashbuckling way his illustrious compatriot made famous worldwide.
Fairways and greens are anathema to a player whose triumph in the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World gave him his sixth European Tour title in total and his second in the Emirate this year following his win in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February.
Just like Ballesteros, wherever Quiros’ ball might go from the tee or beyond, it invariably finds its way, somehow, to the bottom of the cup. Nowhere was that better illustrated than in the first three holes of the final round on the Earth Course where trees, a greenside swale and a bunker were located in quick succession but which, nevertheless, did not stop birdie figures being recorded at each hole.
However such extravagance can, on occasion, lead to mistakes and having begun with a two shot lead, a front nine which featured only one par figure saw Quiros enter the final nine holes one behind a resurgent Paul Lawrie. The Scot had stepped into the winners’ circle for the first time in almost nine years in Malaga in March and the confidence garnered from that victory was clearly flooding through the 42 year old whose focused and disciplined golf was a joy to watch.
The 1999 Open Champion battled gamely over the back nine but a bogey at the 12th, allied to Quiros’ birdie at the 14th, saw the lead change hands once again and gave the Spaniard an advantage he managed to maintain until the pair stood on the last tee.
After a pushed drive Lawrie did admirably well to make birdie four, holing from 12 feet for a 67 to ensure second place on his own on 17 under par 271, a score which helped him rise to 18th place in The Race to Dubai, his best finish since the 2002 season. However, as he had been for most of the day, he was overshadowed by the finish of his playing partner.
A week ago Quiros took a lead into the final round of the UBS Hong Kong Open only to let it slip but ensured there would be no repeat this time round with a stunning eagle three to close, finding the right edge of the putting surface with a three wood before rattling the ball into the hole from fully 50 feet for his own 67 and a winning total of 19 under par 269. How Seve would have loved it; the majesty and the theatre of it all.
At the start of the week the majority of the attention, understandably, had focused on Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy and their tussle for The Race to Dubai, a battle intensified thanks to the Northern Irishman’s thrilling victory in Hong Kong.
Donald had already won the Money List on the US PGA Tour and was looking to become the first player to top the pile on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season. To do so, the arithmetic was simple; finish in the top nine so that not even a McIlroy victory could deny him his place in history.
The 34 year old Englishman admitted feeling the pressure and that showed in a hesitant opening 72 which was pushed even further into the shade by McIlroy’s excellent 66. However, there is simply no better player in golf in compiling a 72 hole score than Donald and steadily, as the week progressed, the undisputed World Number One began to turn things around.
With a fatigued McIlroy visibly wilting, despite the on-course support of girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, the World Number One tennis player, Donald took advantage. Rounds of 68-66 saw him breeze past the Northern Irishman and indeed gave him hope of even lifting the tournament title itself when he began the final round in fourth place only four shots adrift of Quiros.
Yet despite another flawless 66 – meaning he had played the final 47 holes of the tournament bogey-free – he came up just short, finishing on 16 under par 272, two ahead of fourth placed Peter Hanson but one behind Lawrie and three adrift of Quiros.
Aside from making golfing history, Donald also had the knowledge he had set a new season’s earnings record by a Member on The European Tour, his final haul of €5,323,400 comfortably passing the previous best of €4,461,011 set by Germany’s Martin Kaymer last year.
Befitting the stature of the tournament, the week of the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World featured almost as much excitement off the course as inside the ropes and while the Tuesday night beach party at the Atlantis Palm and the Thursday night horse racing at Meydan were relished, it was an announcement on Sunday afternoon which resonated the most.
With Dubai emerging from an uncertain global financial climate, European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady was delighted to announce a significant three-year agreement to extend The Race to Dubai through to the end of the 2014 season with a new name and title sponsor for the season-ending finale, which will be known, from 2012, as the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
The next three editions of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, will return to Jumeirah Golf Estates with the prize fund increasing by US$500,000 to a total of $8 million, and the winner’s cheque rising from $1.25 million to $1.33 million.
“In DP World and Nakheel we have two incredibly strong partners who are fully dedicated to the future success of The Race to Dubai and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai,” said O’Grady. “We thank them for their continued backing of our season’s finale at Jumeirah Golf Estates and we look forward to further strengthening our association with them when our leading world-ranked players return to compete in Dubai over the next three years.”
If those tournaments are anything like the most recent four days on the Earth Course, everyone is already counting down the days.
To order your copy of The European Tour Yearbook 2012, a 240-page, full colour hardback Official Publication with iconic pictures by Getty Images and essays from some of the game's top writers that takes you every step of the way through 52 tournaments and 29 destinations on The 2011 Race to Dubai, click here.