By Nick Totten, europeantour.com
Two time Major Champion Mark O’Meara began coming to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in 1999, and having picked up the title some five years later, he is ideally placed to give europeantour.com the inside track on the beautiful and challenging Emirates GC.
Rounds of 70-64-68-69 gave the American a fine 17 under par total in 2004, and it yielded a one stroke victory for the once Masters and Open Champion over Irishman Paul McGinley to make him the oldest winner of the title at 47 years and 54 days.
Now plying his trade on the Champions Tour, the Florida based 57 year old has continued to come tee it up in the Emirati, and that, matched with his pedigree within the game, makes him ideally placed to comment on how the tournament and course have matured over the years.
Measuring a hearty 7,316 yards, the Majilis Course is a desert oasis amongst an ever growing metropolis, and the high rise buildings make for an interesting addition to any view out over the gloriously manicured fairways of all 18 holes.
With a roll of honour as esteemed as the one at this event over the past 25 years, there is no doubt that O’Meara is as suitably placed as anyone to give his take on how to play this latest stop on The Race to Dubai.
“It’s always a pleasure coming back here,” said the 16 time PGA Tour winner. “I feel fortunate in the years since I started coming and I’ve come to everyone since the first in 1999.
“This is my 15th time back to Dubai and to be a former champ here, having been fortunate to win at the age of 47, and to see the great players who have won here, I feel very fortunate. They have always welcomed me with open arms, and I just love it here.”
If the wind blows
“The course is good, if the wind blows the scoring is not quite as good, but if the wind lies down then these guys play very, very well. I watched the last couple of weeks in Abu Dhabi and Qatar, and the guys are playing well.
“Every tour is getting stronger and stronger, certainly The European Tour in the last 15 years has proven itself to be one of the best tours in the world, right up there with the US Tour, so it is fun to watch. I enjoy it.”
Drive for show
“Driving the ball will be important, keeping the ball in the short grass, and putting well. You have to putt well to win any tournament, and this will certainly not be an exception this week, making the putts.
“They’ve lengthened the course since I won here, but there are still some holes out there that can play very difficult. The first hole is a pretty difficult one, as is the sixth, and the eighth too.
“On the back side you’ve got some holes that you can make birdies on though, but holes like number 12 can be pretty demanding. It’s a long par four and it is key to drive the ball in the fairway, and then there will be plenty of excitement on 17 with this $2.5m hole in one prize I heard about, and 18 is always fun.
“Hit a good drive, nice and long, and you can hit the green in two and maybe make an eagle, but you can also hit it in the fairway too and make bogey.”
“Winning here was great, understandably. Also, Tiger coming and playing here and all the excitement that he brought, for him to come and play in Dubai was great. And this year, what with it being the 25th anniversary and having all the past champions here, except for Seve, but having his son Javier play. It's just great for all of us to come back to play and pay tribute to a really great tournament.
“My game’s pretty good. Last couple of years I’ve made the cut here, beat a few of the guys, but at 57 it is a bit more difficult to keep up with the young, powerful players. I played OK the other week over in Hawaii in our first tournament on the Champions Tour, where I finished sixth, so I’m excited for this week.”