DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The 2009 European Tour comes to an end here in the City of Gold.
Construction may have stopped on many projects in Dubai, victim of the worldwide credit crunch, but another European season is winding down to a close. With that in mind, here are 10 things I’ll be looking for at this week’s Dubai World Championship.
1. McIlroy mania. I’m hoping Rory McIlory wins the tournament and tops the European Order of Merit. I’m biased because I’ve known him since he was 15. There is no sense of entitlement to Rory. He is affable and courteous, and I can’t think of a better representative for the European Tour. Some might think becoming European No. 1 at such a young age, 20, is a bad thing. I disagree. Let him get winning the European money list out of the way now so he can concentrate on what really matters for the rest of his career: winning majors.
2. Signs of life. I’ll be looking in windows. I’ve heard that the villas around the Earth Course are merely shells. They’ve been completed simply to give the place a lived-in look. I’ll be looking for the telltale signs of residency. I’ll be looking for socks and shirts lying on floors and empty coffee cups on coffee tables.
3. Range Rovers. Story is that anyone who bought a villa at Jumeirah Estates received a new Range Rover. I’m told there is a fleet of Range Rovers lying in the desert with covers over them because so few people actually took up the offer.
4. Money. Is this Dubai World Championship the first of a contracted five-year run, or will it be the one and only? The European Tour assures us the contract is valid for the next five years, even if the prize money has been reduced from $10 million to $7.5 million this year. With the economy having tanked in Dubai, I’ll be looking to see if there actually is any money to fund the next four.
5. David Spencer. He was the public face of Leisurecorp when the company announced the deal with the European Tour to host the Dubai World Championship and sponsor the Race to Dubai. The flashy Australian with a penchant for loud shirts was a pleasure to spend company with, but he seems to have vanished off the face of the earth. I’ll be looking to see if he’s around.
6. Traffic jams. It was always easy to gauge Dubai’s success. All you had to do was time how long it took to get into the city center on the Sheik Al Zayed Road. When I first went to Dubai in 1989, this road consisted of two lanes through the desert. In recent years, it not only has widened, but the volume of cars using it has increased a hundred fold. With people leaving Dubai like rats deserting a sinking ship, it will be interesting to see how busy this road is now.
7. Anthony Kim & Angel Cabrera. Going to have to admit defeat on this search, because neither is playing in Dubai. So much for the lure of the European Tour’s season-ending bonanza, which supposedly attracted Kim to sign up for Euro Tour membership in the first place.
8. Russian prostitutes. Not for personal gratification, I assure you, but an indication of economic prosperity. In recent years, it seemed you couldn’t walk through any Dubai bar without at least one Russian lady of the night trying to catch your eye. It was a sure sign that there was ‘much money to be made in Dubai,” as Marina from Kazakhstan said in the bar of the Rotana Towers a few years ago. I wonder whether she and her co-workers have moved on to richer pickings.
9. The changing of the guard. No Colin Montgomerie, no Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn or Paul Lawrie. This is the old guard. The new guard consists of McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Alex Noren, Ross McGowan, Oliver Wilson, Danny Willet, Nick Dougherty, Alvaro Quiros and a host of other youngsters who are the future of the European game.
10. Closure. I’ll be looking forward to a good end to a season that has gone on too long. And then a bloody good rest until sometime next year!