Indian stars Jeev Milkha Singh and Shiv Kapur have hailed the Asian Tour’s entry into the Middle East and hope to put their name on the inaugural Dubai Open trophy at The Els Club Dubai next month.
Two-time Asian Tour number one Singh believes the new Dubai event, which will be the final tournament of the 2014 season from December 18 to 21, is a wonderful addition on the region’s premier Tour Schedule and hopes it would pave the way for more events to emerge in the Middle East.
“I’m very excited for the players and the Tour and I hope we have more tournaments coming up there. I’m looking forward to going to Dubai. My sponsor, ‘golf In DUBAi’, is promoting and organising the event … full marks to them and the Tour for creating this new tournament for us,” said Singh.
“It feels great to be part of something new in Dubai and I have a feeling that given the strong Asian expat population in the UAE, the Dubai Open will become a very successful tournament. The vision of ‘golf in DUBAi’ goes well beyond just promoting and organising this tournament: Theirs is a vision for the region, taking the MENA Golf Tour to another level by providing better playing opportunities and better competition for players,” added Singh, who is also a ‘golf in DUBAi’ brand ambassador.
Kapur, who holds one victory on the Asian Tour, said: “Dubai is the place to be where all the golf action is happening. We’ve got the (European Tour’s) Race to Dubai and the Challenge Tour grand final there, so to have the Asian Tour there now is obviously very good. It bodes well for the future and it’s a huge market. Hopefully we can have multiple events there in the years to come.”
Singh, who has been ranked as high as 35th in the world, is keen to finish off his 2014 campaign on a strong note after a tough season where he has slipped down the world rankings. A series of injuries has not helped his cause but with homeopathic treatment, he is on the mend.
“I love coming back to Asia, it’s given me a lot and I just love the Asian Tour and the camaraderie. It feels like home to me,” said Singh, who has won three times in Europe.
“I’ve never played at The Els Club Dubai but I’ve heard it’s a fantastic golf course, so I’m looking forward to playing there. Dubai at that time of the year is fantastic and there’s a buzz to it. It’s a great addition to our schedule.
“I have won tournaments in different parts of the world, but winning in Dubai would be special. Dubai is a fantastic place. I have always felt very good being there. In fact, I can call it a home away from home,” added Singh, who is the son of legendary Indian runner Milkha Singh, better known as the ‘Flying Sikh’ who won 77 of the 80 races he ran.
Kapur has set himself a target of winning one title before the end of the year and Dubai would be a good prospect especially when he won the Dubai Festival City Challenge last year which was the final event on the European Challenge Tour.
“I’ve had a steady season but I’ve not won a tournament. I like to try to end the year with a win again,” he said.
“I’ve played at The Els Club Dubai previously and it’s a great track. It’s a long course and quite tricky. If they have the rough up, it’ll be a good test. It’s quite different than what we usually play on the Asian Tour … it’s like an American style course. There is not too much grain on the greens and it’ll be a good change for the Asian Tour players.”
In a move acknowledging the growing strength of the MENA Golf Tour, the Asian Tour has handed out special invitations to 24 leading MENA Golf Tour players to compete in the marquee event.
Singh said: “This is just huge for the MENA Tour players. To play on the Asian Tour means the chance to acquire some precious Official World Golf Ranking points, which is going to be so crucial if the region wants to make it to the Olympics in golf.”
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi, thanked the veteran Indian golfer for his support of the Dubai Open. “Jeev is a truly global golfer and a fantastic ambassador for golf in Asia, one who has inspired a new generation of golfers. His input has been vital in bringing the Dubai Open to fruition. I am sure his presence at the event will provide a major boost to the tournament,” he added.
The Dubai Open is promoted and organised by golf in DUBAi, which also stages the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters and the MENA Golf Tour.