European Perspective


European Tour

For the first time since Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer became the world’s No. 1 and 2 golfers, they will tee off in the same field as former No. 1 Tiger Woods this week at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

All three arrive at the Emirates Golf Club with mixed fortunes – Westwood missed the cut in Doha last week, Kaymer finished middle of the pack in Qatar but has a win to his credit on the desert swing and Woods is still trying to find the form which has earned him 38 European Tour victories, two Desert Classics among them.

All eyes will be on Woods, who is pocketing a seven-figure appearance fee for his time in the UAE, and will no doubt have a full schedule for the week, including a pro-am tee time with U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Michael Rowells, who won a worldwide competition to have “the round of a lifetime” alongside Tiger.

Last week, just across the Persian Gulf in Qatar, Lee Westwood talked about how the demands on his time have changed since he took over reigns from Woods at the top of the world rankings.

“I can see why Tiger played such a limited schedule over all of those years. I'm not saying that I'm the profile that he is, but I've had little glimpses into how demanding it can be to be world No. 1. I have great appreciation for it now” said the man from Worksop, England.

Still, Westwood is in no hurry to relinquish the title – he said a few weeks ago he wants to arrive in Augusta as the best player in the world. The bookies would place Martin Kaymer as the man most likely to spoil Westwood’s Augusta dream, and he could do it this week. Kaymer has not finished outside of the top 5 in his three Desert Classic starts.

If the stars align, we will be in for a good week of golf, all four rounds of which you can see on Golf Channel.

The Omega Dubai Desert Classic is the fourth and final leg of the European Tour’s Middle East Swing. This lucrative run through the oil rich nations is a highlight on the European Tour schedule, but not for everyone.

Due mainly to daylight constraints, these events don’t offer full fields, meaning many fully exempt players don’t even sniff a spot in the tournament and those who trudged successfully through the qualifying school last season have been forced to sit on the bench for four weeks. So, unless they’ve been lucky enough to be given a coveted sponsor invite, they’re forced to sit and watch while their colleagues bank valuable euros in the Race to Dubai.

The tour is a survival of the fittest, certainly, but it isn’t a level playing field for everyone. At the moment, Q-School grads are all anxiously watching the entry list for next week’s Avantha Masters in New Delhi. With 23 local players being given entry, their chances are slim. And, if they do get a spot in the field, it will happen last minute and last minute airfares are not cheap.

The ladies are finally off and running in 2011.

Although the LPGA season doesn’t begin until next week in Thailand, the LET kicked things off in Australia this week where Yani Tseng cruised home for a seven-stroke victory over world No. 1, Jiyai Shin, Melissa Reid and Eun Hee Ji.

Tseng repeated her feat from last year, successfully defending her 2010 title and starting the year off with a win, which led to scooping up two majors and becoming Rolex Player of the Year on the LPGA.

The LET is playing three straight weeks in Australasia, giving many LPGA players the perfect warm-up for their openers in Thailand and Singapore.

Tseng will be among those heading to this week’s ANZ RACV Ladies Masters on Australia’s Golf Cost. Christina Kim, Stacy Lewis, Angela Stanford and Lexi Thompson are also in the field.