Focus on Middle East

This month’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship is set to boast one of the best fields of the season for European Tour-sanctioned Middle Eastern tournaments.

British Open champion Padraig Harrington, Aussie Adam Scott, Colin Montgomerie and defending champion Paul Casey have already signed up for the January 17-20 event at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s National Course.

Joining them is veteran character Miguel Angel Jimenez, the cigar-chomping Spaniard who triumphed at the Hong Kong Open in November.

The $2 million tournament will celebrate its third edition this month and highlights the growing influence of the Middle East in the expansion of global golf.

With Qatar and Dubai also staging European tournaments at around the same time, the deserts of the Gulf are gradually turning green to accommodate the increasing popularity of golf.

Of course, these tournaments are only a taster for one of the richest tournaments ever, scheduled for 2009 – the Dubai World Championship, which will offer a record $10 million in prize money with the winner taking home $1.66 million.

The Dubai extravaganza, at the Jumeirah Golf Club, is guaranteed for at least five years with an option for an extension.

By 2009, the European Tour would have undergone a major facelift with richer tournaments and a departure from what many feel is a staid outlook.

The Order of Merit will be remained Race to Dubai as the Europeans attempt to fight back against the dominance of the US PGA Tour in world golf.

They face a tough task, given the Americans have one thing the Europeans may never have – Tiger Woods.

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