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The atmosphere in Dubai is Masters meets British Open

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- If it’s 27 degrees C (80 F) on the European Tour in November, it must be Dubai. The end-of-season World Championship has a first prize of $1.25 million. But the weekend will also determine who wins the Race to Dubai, Europe’s money list and a nice early Christmas bonus of $1.5 million.
The atmosphere at the Earth Course, designed by Greg Norman, is sports event meets garden party. The spectators are mostly Dubai’s ex-pats: Brits and South Africans, with a smattering of locals to make up crowds that swell on Friday (the first day of the weekend in the United Arab Emirates) and fall away, bizarrely, on Sunday (a working day) for the final round.
The tented village is the social heartbeat of the tournament. Two bars, a giant TV screen and hundreds of golf fans chilling out on scatter cushions on the grass or sitting on pub benches around tables with beers and Bacardis. It’s a cross between the Masters and the British Open. Ladies are resplendent in summer dresses. Men of course are sporting the universal uniform of chino shorts, polo shirts and sports shoes or flip-flop beach sandals. (They’d never allow those at Augusta.)
You know the tournament is catering to a mainly British audience when you look around at the menus: bison burger, Fat Boy Kebab, Foot-Long Euro Tour Dog, and the ubiquitous fish and chips. Of course there’s a Costa coffee bar, too, because the world just hasn’t got enough chain stores, right?
As the last putt drops each day, the band cranks up on the stage next to the giant screen. It’s tribute band heaven (or hell) in the desert. Thursday it was Vertigo murdering U2. Never mind Sunday, this was more Thursday Bloody Thursday. Friday had a Motown showdown. Poor James Brown. I Feel Good. Well, almost. Saturday, Van Morrison’s Moondance kicked off the party. Can I just have one more romance with you? Er, no, thanks.
Life is more laid back in the privileged seats in front of the clubhouse where VIPs have cute picnic tables and waiter service corralled inside a charming whitewashed picket fence. Just like June in an English village. In November in Dubai.
Meanwhile, rather appropriately, England’s Ian Poulter is leading at 12 under par after the third round. You can read all about his day, no, doubt, for the next 24 hours on his Twitter feed at @ianjamespoulter.
Cocktail, anyone?

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by Kevin Cunningham