Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, the current World Number One and Two, share a special affinity for Dubai and once again there will be history in the making when the four-week European Tour ‘Desert Swing’ reaches its crescendo with the 22nd edition of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Kaymer knows a victory at the Emirates Golf Club this week could enable him to take the World Number One spot from Westwood – a little more than two months after the German succeeded the Englishman as European Number One by winning The Race to Dubai.
But Westwood will be determined to hold onto the pinnacle of the game he so deservedly scaled at the end of October and his fine record on the Majlis Course – where his runners-up finish last year was one of seven top ten finishes – suggests he will be a hard man to dislodge.
“It’s obviously great for us and for European golf that the number one and two in the world are both here at this tournament and we are both European,” said Westwood. “It just shows the strength of The European Tour now and the kind of fields that we have attracted for the first few weeks of the year.
“I think it was in 1994 that I first played in Dubai and I’ve always enjoyed it. All of the Desert Swing tournaments offer great golf courses and a fantastic climate to play in, especially when you see the weather at home. It’s a great start to the year and really gets you going.”
What heightens the overall drama surrounding one of the most eagerly anticipated weeks of the seasons is the fact that Tiger Woods, seeking to win the prestigious title for the third time, steps back into The European Tour arena once again.
It means that for the first time since 1994 – outside the Major Championships and the World Golf Championships – the leading three players on the Official World Golf Ranking will tee up in a mainstream European Tour event.
Woods, who won the title in 2006 and 2008, admitted: ““I always enjoy going to Dubai and I like playing in the tournament. There’s an outstanding field and it’s a really good golf course that’s in great shape.”
Kaymer, who launched the ‘Desert Swing’ in sensational fashion by capturing the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship by eight shots, also knows that he can vault to Number One in The 2011 Race to Dubai this week although Denmark’s Thomas Björn – winner in Dubai a decade ago – has a similar target in mind after his fine win in last week’s Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy moved him up to third.
“I’m very much looking forward to returning to Dubai,” said Kaymer. “The strength of the field is excellent and it will be a good challenge. I like to play the golf course and if I can give myself a chance on Sunday, hopefully I’ll be able to take it.”
Two men who will also be looking to be in the shake-up once again come the weekend are the last two winners of the title; the 2009 champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and the 2010 winner Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain, who beat Westwood in a play-off 12 months ago.
“I’ve played this event for so many years now so I’m looking forward to my defence,” said Jiménez. “It was a special win last year and it is one of my favourite golf courses where the weather is always good. We’ve got the top players here this week and it is great to be a part of it.”