Rory McIlroy vows to have a go at shot worth a cool €1.8m in Dubai Desert Classic
To put the bounty into context, it matches the prize fund on offer for the entire tournament
Rory McIlroy during yesterday’s press conference before the start of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
All of those not in favour of handsome cash rewards for millionaire golfers should look away now. The organisers of this week’s 25th anniversary of the Dubai Desert Classic will bestow $2.5m (€1.8m) on the first player who manages a hole in one on the par-four 17th during the closing 36 holes of the event. The hole, which typically measures 359 yards and dog-legs right, will be shortened to 325 yards.
“I think my caddie will leave me with the driver and run to the green because he is on 10 per cent,” said Stephen Gallacher, the defending champion. “There is no way I will be laying up for that hole. I think it’s a great thing.
“The hard thing is going to be getting the right line. It’s a blind shot. I’ll bet my caddie is already out there getting the line worked out for me; I have never seen him work so hard on one hole.”
The aim of capturing the imagination of players, then, has been achieved. Those who survive for the closing 36 holes are seeking to win by far the biggest ace prize in the history of golf. To put the bounty into further context, it matches the prize fund on offer for the entire tournament.
In 2011, Lee Westwood attempted to cut the corner and drive the penultimate green but lost his ball in the branches of a tree and double-bogeyed.
And what if a player is two shots clear with two holes to play on Sunday? Would the risk be worth the reward?
‘I’ll go for it’
“If you are confident enough with your driver then, yes, why not?,” said Rory McIlroy. “It might not even be a driver, that’s the thing.
“If they move the tee up, it’s a three-wood. So, yes, why not? I’ll go for it.
“No matter what way the wind is, it shouldn’t be a problem to get there. There are not many chances you have to win $2.5m with one shot, so I’ll give it a go.”
Competitive albatrosses are exceptionally rare, which will be of solace to Golf in Dubai who have arranged insurance for the $2.5m, a means of marking the Desert Classic’s 25th birthday.
Before this weekend incentive comes into play, Tiger Woods will look to shrug off a poor performance at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he failed to make a 54-hole cut, by playing himself into contention at the Emirates Club.
“I practised Monday and I was better on Tuesday than I was on Monday,” Woods said. “Then I was better on Wednesday than I was on Tuesday. Hopefully on Thursday, that trend continues.
“I definitely feel fit, there’s no doubt about that. My game was certainly nowhere near as sharp as I would have liked last week. I was a fraction off, and a fraction off on a golf course set up that hard bit a lot of us.
“I think the average score was just over 73 on Saturday and I shot 79. I have come out here just wanting to improve every day.”
A run Woods is anxious to end is the one without a Major win, which now stretches back to 2008. “I think I just need to be patient and keep putting myself there,” said the world number one.
“You are not going to win them every year. I certainly look at my career and see I haven’t won them all each and every year I have competed as a professional.
“The thing is, I have got to keep putting myself there. And if I can keep doing that, I’ll start clicking a few here and there.
“The four venues this year are ones that I have played well at. Three I have won at and one I am trending the right way at. I’m looking forward to these Major championships and this season in general.”