A commanding performance by Sergio Garcia capped yet another impressive week for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, writes Michael Stoneman
Sergio Garcia’s imperious wire-to-wire victory provided a suitably impressive conclusion to the European Tour’s annual ‘Desert Swing’, with the Omega Dubai Desert Classic once again underlining its position as one of golf’s premier tournaments.
The Spanish superstar set the tone for the week with an opening 65 at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday and went on to claim his 30th career win with a dominant display, firing a bogey-free 69 in the final round to beat Open champion Henrik Stenson by three shots.
"I'm very happy to play the way I played, " said Garcia. "The way I handled some of the key moments and to beat Henrik, we all now how great a player he is.”
In the build-up to the tournament, much of the excitement had centred on Tiger Woods’s return to Dubai as he continues his comeback from injury. The 14-time Major champion’s participation proved to be a massive draw in terms of ticket sales and hospitality sales, but he struggled to a five-over-par 77 in the opening round before withdrawing from the event with back spasms, as his old rival Garcia went on to lift the Dallah trophy.
While doubts continue to grow over whether Woods will ever be able to return to Major-winning form, there is renewed confidence in Garcia finally claiming one of golf’s marquee events. The 37-year-old now has eight top-10 finishes in his last 15 starts, including two victories, and will resume his quest for a maiden Major title at April’s Masters.
“When I get to Augusta, the US Open, the British Open, and the PGA, I just want to do the best I can. Just like I try any other week. So that's not going to change,” said Garcia, who already has 22 top-10 Major finishes to his name. “We try to play as well as we can every single week, and I'm going to keep trying to give myself more shots, more chances at Majors and you know, we’ll see what happens.”
The Spaniard’s win in Dubai has lifted him to ninth in the world rankings – highlighting the quality of the tournament’s field – and the newly-engaged star is now hoping for more success in 2017.
“To be back inside the world's top 10 is great,” he said. "Hopefully it will be the beginning of a great year.”
It certainly proved to be another great year for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, with the tournament once again attracting a stellar line-up to the UAE. In addition to Garcia, Woods and Stenson, the field included the likes of Masters winner and defending champion Danny Willett, former world no.1s Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, and rising stars such as Tyrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, Jeunghun Wang and Thomas Pieters.
Future stars of the game were also given their chance to shine on the magnificent Majlis course, with Australian amateur Curtis Luck finishing in a tie for 23rd. The 20-year-old was also the leading amateur at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January as he continues his preparations for a Masters appearance later this year – a reward for his victories in the US Amateur and Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2016.
In addition to Luck, MENA Golf Tour prodigy Rayhan Thomas also caught the eye, with the 17-year-old Dubai-based schoolboy making the cut and finishing in a tie for 60th on his home course.
While great things are expected of Luck and Thomas in the coming years, the future of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic also looks brighter than ever following the establishment of a new entity to manage the tournament.
Falcon Golf – chaired by Peter Dawson, the former Chief Executive of The R&A and former Secretary of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews – will now manage both the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Dubai Ladies Masters, as well as working towards enhancing Dubai’s golf efforts. This will include driving greater golf tourism, using the sport as a platform to tell Dubai’s story in overseas markets and promoting grass roots participation.
“Dubai has a fantastic golf offering and, combined with the emirate’s forward-thinking approach, I believe there is a real opportunity to develop it further,” said Dawson.
With plans already being prepared to improve the Omega Dubai Desert Classic even further, golf fans – and defending champion Sergio Garcia – have more reason than ever to already start looking forward to next year’s tournament.