DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Amid the towering skyscrapers that are a testament to forward thinking, officials at this week’s Dubai Desert Classic have taken a different view of this year’s event and embraced the past.
The event, which was the European Tour’s first foray into the Middle East, celebrates its 25th anniversary this week, bringing back all 20 of the 21 surviving past winners to play the tournament and Tuesday’s Champions Challenge, including multiple winner Tiger Woods.
For those who have made the Middle East stop a staple in their schedules it’s a chance to celebrate one of golf’s truly unique stops.
“I remember the crazy chaotic mayhem as soon as I stepped foot out of the airport,” said Paul Casey, who first played the event in 2004 and in six starts has finished outside the top 20 just once. “It’s brilliant. Taxis everywhere, I loved it. It has a buzz about it.”
Golf fans have gotten used to seeing the towering buildings that now frame Emirates Golf Club, but it wasn’t always that way. When the event was first played in 1989 the urban sprawl that now rings the course was little more than an endless desert.
“I never missed one until I retired in 2006,” recalled Mark Roe, a former European Tour player who now splits his time as a television golf analyst and short game coach. “Every year there were more new buildings and each was bigger than the last one. It became a sci-fi movie.”
The event also proved to be something of a stepping off point for the European Tour to what has become a global schedule and is still considered one of the circuit’s most-anticipated events.
“This event has the history in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi has certainly progressed very, very quickly and become kind of the favorite of the Middle East swing, however, this golf course is the best that we play,” Casey said.