In what is certain to be one of the most eagerly awaited three-balls in recent golfing history, the world’s top three players, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods will go head-to-head in the first two rounds of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The trio, who head the Official World Golf Ranking, will have the eyes of the golfing world firmly fixed upon them when they tee off together at 12.20pm on Thursday, in a draw that will showcase The European Tour around the world.
All three players have a superb record at Emirates Golf Club - Woods having won the title on two occasions while Westwood was runner up last year and Kaymer, who was fourth 12 months ago, was second in 2008, finishing one stroke behind Woods.
It is the first time since 1994 that the top three in the world have played in the same European Tour event other than the Major Championships and World Golf Championships.
US PGA Champion Kaymer, who has the chance to overtake Ryder Cup Teammate Westwood at the top of the World Ranking on Sunday, is relishing the chance to take on his rivals and will play with 14 time Major winner Woods for the first time.
“I’ve never played with Tiger Woods before,” he said. “Of course I've met him but I don't know how it is to play with him, so it will be nice. It will be great for the tournament, having the top three playing on Thursday and Friday. So I look forward to it.
“I think we shouldn't really see it as a rivalry. We are out here to have fun and play good golf and show the people that we do our job with passion and love. It's not about winning or losing in the end of the day. It's about challenging each other and having fun.”
He added: “I think I have a better chance to become the Number One this week than last week because I fancy the golf course much more than Qatar, said the German. “So from this point of view, the chances are bigger and higher this week.
Launching the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at a press conference with defending champion Miguel Angel Jiménez, the 2004 champion Mark O’Meara and Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAI, World Number One Westwood said the presence of the leading three players on the planet highlighted the tournament’s status on the global stage.
“It is a fantastic draw for the tournament and for people watching,” said the Englishman. “I think that's what people like to see. Certainly at other events where you draw the three Major champions together in the PGA Championship, that's always exciting, and at the U.S. Open, with the top three in the world. But I don't think it's ever happened on The European Tour.
“Certainly for The European Tour itself, having the top two in the World Rankings, with the person that's dominated the game over the last 15 years, playing in the same three ball would be great for the Tour, great for golf and very exciting that would draw a lot of attention to The European Tour in a period where sponsorship and things like that is very competitive.
“I think we want to be making our game look as attractive and glitzy as possible. I think by doing that, it's the ideal way. Especially if we all did well and performed.”
Westwood also paid tribute to the effect that Woods has had on the game, as the American joins the world class field that includes many rising stars of The European Tour that he inspired.
“Ten years ago when Tiger was winning by 15 at Pebble Beach, these kids were 12 years old watching him and getting a work ethic and looking at a level that you had to play the game, said Westwood. “Now these lads are 22 years old, 23 years old, and they have been doing what Tiger has been doing for ten years.
“So they come out here professional athletes and get straight into it. It's quite amazing the likes of Matteo Manassero, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy. They used to need a bit of a bedding in period, and now they are just straight into it because they have got Tiger to emulate over the last ten years, growing up and watching it.”