Dubai will this week host some of Europe and the world’s top up and coming young stars, as well as some more experienced heads such as former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson, as 45 players attempt to claim one of the 15 European Tour cards on offer at the end of the season and follow in the footsteps of Stenson.
The Swede has been on imperious form in 2013 and leads The Race to Dubai after winning the US PGA Tour’s equivalent last month, but the down-to-earth World Number Four has never forgotten where he came from.
In 2000, Stenson emerged victorious in the Challenge Tour’s season-ending Grand Final to finish the year as the tour’s Number One and he credits that season as a huge one in the general context of his long and successful career.
“The Challenge Tour is obviously where it all began for me,” said Stenson, who is playing in this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China. “It’s a tour that in some ways helped me become the player I am today.
“I had a great season in 2000, but it was towards the end of the season that I really started to find my best form.
“I think I finished in the top five in my last four tournaments, including the two wins in Sweden and then at the Grand Final in Cuba, where I played really well to beat Mika [Lundberg] by around five shots.
“So it was the perfect end to a great season, and I was able to take that form and confidence with me into the next season on The European Tour.
“There is obviously a bit of a step up from the Challenge Tour to The European Tour, but winning the Grand Final and the Rankings was huge in terms of my belief. I don’t think my debut season on Tour would have been so successful without the platform the Challenge Tour gave me to build on.”
If Stenson were to go on and win The Race to Dubai, he would become the first former Challenge Tour Number One to emulate that feat on The European Tour and he is looking forward to that challenge.
“It would be a very nice honour to become the first player to win the Challenge Tour Rankings and The Race to Dubai,” he said. “Making those kinds of records is probably something I’ll look back on when my career is finished, but being the first player to achieve something is always pretty cool.
“I’ve still got a fair way to go to wrap up The Race to Dubai title, but if I finish this season like I did on the Challenge Tour in 2000, I reckon I might just do it!”
The Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club takes place at the stunning Al Badia Golf Club by InterContinental course, in the commercial, residential and cultural hub of Dubai Festival City.
As a former Dubai resident, Stenson is delighted to see the Grand Final enter a new era in its first visit to the United Arab Emirates this week.
“I obviously know lots of the courses in Dubai,” he said. “I once played Al Badia a long time ago, and like all the courses over there in Dubai, it was in fantastic condition.
“The climate at this time of year is perfect for golf, so I’m sure the guys will enjoy the week and I wish them all the best – especially the Swedes!”