(AP) — One of Greg Norman’s golf courses at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai has been selected to host the inaugural Dubai World Championship, which will end the European Tour season in 2009 and offer a $10 million purse, the richest in golf.
The tournament will be held on the Earth course, which features a four-hole closing stretch that measures exactly one mile. Norman said it will be considered “one of the most challenging and exciting miles of golf.”
The “longest mile in golf” used to be known as the four closing holes at La Costa Resort, which hosted the Accenture Match Play Championship as recently as 2005. But that was before the nines were switched. And before the final 300 yards were under water because of so much rain.
THRILL IS GONE? For those who believe the excitement at the Masters is forever gone because of changes to Augusta National, there are still a few questions to consider.
How to explain 2003, two years after the first big overhaul, when Len Mattiace only needed a par on the 18th hole to shoot 64 and win the Masters? He made bogey and lost in a playoff to Mike Weir.
What about 2004, when Phil Mickelson birdied five of the last seven holes to beat Ernie Els by one shot?
In 2005, Tiger Woods tied a course record by making seven straight birdies in the middle of the third round, the final four on Sunday morning because of rain delays. He went on to beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff after both finished at 12-under 276.
And for a course that supposedly had gone silent, Trevor Immelman was at 11-under 205 going into the final round. One has to go back to 2001 to find a lower score for the 54-hole leader, when Woods was at 12-under 204 and on his way to a fourth straight major. That was the year before the first dose of lengthening.
Could it be that one reason Immelman closed with a 75 — and this is just a guess — was the wind? According to the weather service, the wind was blowing 16 mph and gusting to 26 mph when the final group teed off.
Much was made out of CBS Sports showing highlights of Gary Player’s victory in 1978, when he shot 30 on the back nine for a 64, the lowest final round by a Masters champion. Great stuff, for sure, but it’s not like that happens every year.
Remember, it was only a year ago when Jim Nantz produced a colorized version of Arnold Palmer’s victory in the 1960 Masters. Palmer didn’t birdie either of the par 5s on the back nine, but rallied with a 30-foot birdie on the 17th and a 6-iron to 6 feet on the final hole.
He closed with a 70.
One final thought: Woods missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the 13th, failed to get up-and-down for birdie on the 15th (not the easiest chip), missed a 12-foot birdie on the 16th and three-putted for bogey on the 14th. Convert all those and he shoots 68, coming from six shots behind to the win his fifth green jacket.
Still a boring Masters?
POWELL HONORED: Renee Powell gave a public lecture last summer at St. Andrews titled, “The Many Faces of Women’s Golf.” She returns to the gray old town this summer for an occasion she never imagined.
A coach, player, pioneer and one of only three blacks to play on the LPGA Tour, Powell will become the first female golfer awarded an honorary degree at the University of St. Andrews.
“This is my first honorary degree, and to receive it from the University of St. Andrews, I am truly humbled,” Powell said. “I am very honored to be one of just a handful of golfers to receive an honorary doctorate from the university. And to be the first female golfer is incredible.”
Other golfers who be awarded an honorary degree include Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, and Charlie Sifford.
Powell played 13 years on the LPGA Tour before retiring in 1980 to become a golf instructor in the United States, Africa and Europe. She is the head pro at Clearview Golf Course in Ohio, the only U.S. course that is designed own and operated by a black person — in this case, her father, William Powell.
It will be Powell’s third trip to the home of golf.
“When I walk around St. Andrews, I realize how very fortunate I am to have been taught the game of golf and to play to such a level that has allowed me the opportunity to travel to St. Andrews,” she said.
HELPING HAND: Greg Rita, who caddied for Curtis Strange at consecutive U.S. Open victories and for John Daly when he won the British Open at St. Andrews, got some unexpected financial help while recovering from a brain tumor.
Rita was denied financial assistance from a special caddie fund because he still has assets of his own.
According to Golfweek magazine, four-time major winner Raymond Floyd heard about this and wrote a check for $50,000 to help with medical bills. Rita never worked for Floyd.
“It’s the community,” Floyd told the magazine. “Golf is a pretty close-knit group. When one has a problem, I feel that it’s our responsibility to take care of each other. Even if the caddie fund might have (offered him assistance), I would have done it. It’s a tough situation, and when you have the wherewithal to help someone, I think it’s important.”
SPIN OF THE WEEK: According to the PGA Tour, the EDS Byron Nelson Championship features five players who have won tournaments this year, including Masters champion Trevor Immelman, and 27 of the top 50 in the FedEx Cup standings.
According to The Dallas Morning News, the field includes one of the top 10 in the world ranking.
DIVOTS: Laura Diaz and Nicole Castrale have been invited to play in the CVS Caremark Charity Classic. It’s the second straight year that tournament hosts Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade have invited an LPGA team to the exhibition, to be held June 22-24 at Rhode Island Country Club. The tournament has raised more than $10 million for New England charities dedicated to children and families over the last nine years. … The CN Canadian Women’s Open will be played next year at Priddis Greens outside Calgary, where Karrie Webb won her first major at the old du Maurier Classic in 1999. … The Players Championship will allow free admission to practice rounds for local police and firefighters.
STAT OF THE WEEK: In four tournaments this year, Lorena Ochoa has finished a combined 45 strokes ahead of Annika Sorenstam.
FINAL WORD: “We have our Olympics — we have our major championships. And to add another layer in the Olympics, I think is the wrong thing to do. We need to concentrate on getting more affordable golf for people to play.” — Tom Watson.