The best golf viewing in the world?
I’ve been to quite a few golf events around the world and nowhere else is there the opportunity to get close to some of the world’s greatest players as in these Middle East events. There are enough fans on the course to make for a good atmosphere but you can very easily stroll around and see every shot played - no need for periscopes or stepladders here.
Also, the tented village and food provisions etc is great. HSBC are clearly very involved in the product and it really pays off. Having seen the Dubai Desert Classic as well, the HSBC wins hands down for off course entertainment and activities. The party on the clubhouse terrace every night is great fun and it’s a lovely atmosphere. If you do happen to be passing with your family in tow there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained all day and entry is free to tourists.
If you are into in-play betting then be warned - others have an unfair edge.
In-play gambling is a huge business in all sports now and there is a lot of money to be made. Betfair allows you to trade ‘in running’ so you can both back and oppose players. Prices can move the instant putts are holed or balls go ob.
Amongst the fans strolling around the course was a young guy, looking for all the world like he was on his iPhone chatting to his mates. In fact he was giving live play-by-play commentary, at the other end was someone placing bets and taking money from others. He or she would be getting the information faster than the average punter watching the television at home and potentially making a killing.
I’ve seen this at many events before and it wouldn’t be beyond the wit of the European Tour to do something about it, although I was slightly jealous of the guy being flown around the world to give commentary to an audience of one!
The caddie’s role can’t be underestimated
More so than ever before I was able to appreciate the role of the caddie today. Being able to get so close to the players meant you could hear a lot of the conversations between player and caddie. There’s a lot involved in being a good caddie and a lot of information needs to be processed in a really short period of time. I spent most of today following McIlroy and Fitzpatrick and the contrast was amazing. Fitzpatrick was getting a lot of information from his man whereas Rory didn’t seem to be using his bagman, Harry, for anything more than a guy to carry his bags. No pacing off yardage’s or reading putts - I guess that’s not what Rory is looking for at the moment but it’s hard to imagine it couldn’t help a bit having a real expert on his trade on the bag.
The difference in length between the Uber long and normal is stunning
McIlroy versus Fitzpatrick was a good example of the difference in length between some players. On average McIlroy was 40 yards past Fitzpatrick but on one hole where he really let rip he was over 80 yards longer. In some ways though the really impressive thing is how well a shorter player like Fitzpatrick can compete. His play is tested through the bag in a way that he long players aren’t, and the all-round strengths required to compete at the top are really impressive.
No surprises, but Rory moves the needle like no-one else
There were probably a thousand people following Rory and Matt Fitzpatrick around today. You could see easily but there was a real buzz. On the back 9, when it became clear that Rory was probably not going to make the move needed, we nipped in front to catch up with Tommy Fleetwood who was making a charge. Fleetwood oozes charisma, was rolling in the birdies and the defending champion. When we caught him up as he rolled in a birdie on 15 there were around 60 people watching. In the third last group out. It was all about Rory.
Rory never really got going today. Yesterday he was bouncing along the fairways and seemed to be really enjoying himself, today it definitely seemed a bit of a grind. The wind was up and he backed away from a lot of putts. We got chatting to his Dad, Gerry, on the course who said that a top 10 was what he was looking for this week but he would go close next week as he loves the Emirates course so much. You heard it here first!
So well done to Tommy Fleetwood. To come back in 30 in those conditions today was pretty special. As you can tell I’m a big fan of this event, the golf nearby is very strong too if you are looking for a game while here. Yas Links is wonderful and Saadiyat Beach good fun so there’s plenty to keep you entertained. We rounded off our trip with a little night golf at Yas Links which is well worth a visit too. You really are spoilt for choice around here!