European Tour players ready to work on Gulf Swing

The so-called “Gulf Swing” of the European Tour tees off this week with the Abu Dhabi Championship, the first leg of three tournaments being held in the Middle East.

The region has taken on crucial importance as far as the European Tour goes, mainly because it is where the season-ending, money-spinning Dubai World Championship takes place.

And all events leading up to that $20 million bonanza is known as the Race to Dubai (RD), replacing what was hitherto called the Order of Merit, or money list.

RD leader Sergio Garcia is joined in the United Arab Emirates by Irish double major winner in 2008 Padraig Harrington, South Africa’s US Masters champion Trevor Immelman and defending champion Martin Kaymer, of Germany.

After Abu Dhabi, the tour goes to Doha, the capital of Qatar before completing the sands circuit with the Dubai Desert Classic.

The tournament is being played at Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s National Course, which Harrington is confident will suit his game. He said in a European Tour website article:

“I like the course and I do feel it’s one I’m competitive on. I am focusing hard on my preparation and I think I’ll be ready with my ‘A’ game. This year I’ll be good to go. I believe Abu Dhabi is moving in the right direction in terms of golfing excellence. The standard of the National course is top class.”

Garcia has yet to win a major tournament in his career but has consistently been one of the world’s leading players. He is hoping to use the Gulf Swing to his advantage and build a sizeable lead in the RD to kick off 2009.

With such exotic locations on the European Tour, in addition to its new look, the PGA Tour faces plenty of opposition to keep their top players.

This week in the US, players gather in Waialae, Hawaii for the Sony Open, which, at $5.4 million is richer than the $2 million Abu Dhabi event but minus the diversity of top names.

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