What you're expecting from Jumeirah Golf Estates Earth Course and the tournament itself?
The Jumeirah Earth Course is pretty much the opposite to the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City. It's a big, wide golf course where the likes of Rory McIlroy can really just open his shoulders and not be in any danger of finding too much trouble off the tee...not that he misses many fairways anyway but the Earth Course is certainly a different style of course to what we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks on the tour. It’s really well bunkered and the greens should be fairly fast. I played the course the very first time we had the tournament there and it's aged really well and like all the courses out in Dubai, the condition of it is always impeccable.
In terms of picking a winner, the likes of Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy are going to be really hard to beat. Rahm is a bit of a Rolex Series specialist and Rory’s obviously in great form on the back of winning in China. Those are the two that really stand out for me which is hardly a bold prediction considering their calibre and world rankings. They'd obviously be among the favourites on any golf course, but both have winning pedigree on this course with Rory winning here twice before. Jumeirah really suits their style of play. It’s not just the driving either. The greens tend to be quite firm for that event and their ability to bring it in really high, especially Rory, is a big advantage. If he putts well I think he’ll be very difficult to stop. He’s also got eyes on trying to catch Koepka in the world rankings so that’s extra motivation for him.
From personal experience, you've been out to Jumeriah, have you played much in Dubai itself away from there?
Yeah I’ve played all over out there, but my favourite course is where they play the ‘Dubai Desert Classic’ which is the Majlis Course at The Emirates. I do love the night golf too...I think it’s such a great concept, it's so different. I think it feels like such a different sport when you play night golf and I know they have it in other parts of the world like Turkey, but I’ve done it in Dubai and it’s so much fun.
Definitely worth checking out. But yes, The Majlis...brilliant layout and well worth checking out if you’re going on holiday there. Dubai Creek and Jebel Ali are great too and I also really enjoy The Els Club. Obviously, tour pros get spoiled and the venues they visit are in pristine condition for the tournaments, and that’s what you get in Dubai all throughout the year. The courses there never appear to be out of season and are pretty much immaculate year round which you don’t always get in other parts of the world. The service levels are superb too.
You mentioned night golf, do you think there’s any scope for the European Tour to host an event under the floodlights in the future?
I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll see tournaments being played at night time in the future. It would be brilliant for the European Tour if you think about it because one of the things that’s tough for the tour is our time zone. Lots of the potential golf audience will be at work while the coverage is on so shifting that to a later time with night golf in mind could well allow more golfers to tune in. I can definitely see it happening and it would bring a very different energy to the coverage too.
Are there any other things that make Dubai stand out as a holiday destination?
Well away from the golf course there is so much to see and do so for family groups or couples for example, where there might be some non golfers in the group, it’s fantastic. The shopping is great, the hotels are amazing and of course the food is incredible in general and the weather is arguably the most reliable weather I’ve experienced anywhere in the world.
Obviously there are times in the year where it can get extremely hot, but in general, you’re almost guaranteed sunshine pretty much whenever you go, which brings with it quite a lot of peace of mind for holiday bookers. I could count on one hand how many times I’ve seen it rain out there. They’ve even got skiing which is crazy to think but that just shows how much is on offer out there!
Do you think Bernd Wesiberger will wrap up The Race to Dubai, or do you see someone else coming from behind to pip him at the post?
Bernd’s had such a good year so if he does get over the line I wouldn’t be surprised. Having said that, you’ve obviously got the likes of Tommy Fleetwood right behind him now after winning in South Africa and jumping 8 places up the ranking list. There are only 5 players who can mathematically win it now. I’m wondering whether Rory will be regretting not playing since over the last couple of weeks now as I’m sure he would’ve liked to hold the Fedex Cup and Race to Dubai at the same time. He’s out of the running now though.
Bernd thoroughly deserves to be in the drivers seat going into this final event with three wins, two of them Rolex series and on the back of a t3 last week he is absolutely the favourite but is Tommy capable of going back to back or Rahm winning again at JGE.. you’re damn right... the smart money is Bernd, my head says Rahm but my heart says Tommy and I always like to go with my heart!