To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, some of The European Tour’s leading lights have recounted their favourite memories from down the years…
Of all the former Champions teeing it up this week at Emirates GC, Thomas Björn probably looks back on his victory most fondly, having gone toe-to-toe with one of the biggest names in the game and won.
Playing alongside Tiger Woods in 2001 for all four rounds, the ‘Great Dane’ was every bit as good as his nickname suggests, culminating in a thrilling finish that saw the pair head down the last level and locked in a final battle up the par five last hole.
The only thing on Björn’s mind was birdie, having spent much of the final day behind the World Number One, and that’s exactly what he did. The rest, as they say, is history.
Needless to say then, that the 15-time European Tour winner holds that victory as one of the highlights of his career, and enjoys returning to the Majilis Course year after year.
“It was a good one alright,” said the 42-year old Dane. “It was a time when Tiger was right at the top of the game of golf – he was so far ahead of everybody else and every time he teed it up, it was always expected of him to win.
“To play with him for four days and kind of hang in there, hang in there, hang in there all the way was special. I remember the first two days we both played unbelievable golf and then the weekend a bit of a tussle between us.
“At the time it was very rare that anybody beat him when they got into that position. So it was a special occasion and a special four days and something that I certainly always felt like was probably one of the highlights my career. It was very special.
“I always seemed to be trailing by one or two shots and then on 17 I holed a great putt and drew level which was probably what the tournament deserved because it had been such a long haul for both of us.
“It was a hard-fought battle and I always felt like the only thing I could do was hang on to his shirt tails for the duration of the round and see where it took me. I was never really playing the man – I was always just pretty much playing myself and the golf course and trying to do the best I could do and forcing it in the end to come out on top. It was a special week personally and for this tournament as well.”
Fond memories indeed, and proof of the high regard that all of the players hold the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in, and like so many, Björn is astounded at how much the city has changed over the past two decades.
“It's fantastic,” said the two-time Ryder Cup player. “You come down here, you're a young kid. I came here for the first time in '96 and it was a long drive from the city out here to the middle of the desert to find a golf course, and seeing the place develop over the years has been amazing.
“It's grown from a little unknown dune that nobody knew about back then to one of the tourist destinations of the world. It's remarkable. But it was a very different place to come to.
“The first time you set foot here, you realised you were in a place that loves sport and loves people and embraces everything that goes on. This tournament has been probably a favourite of the players over the years because of what it provides: the fantastic facilities, a great city and a golf course that's in magnificent shape every year. It's just a favourite stop really.”