January 27, 2014
- Ernie Els tied for 37th at last week's Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. (Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2014 and this is his most recent installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
It’s great to be out here in the Middle East, getting my season off and running in perfect weather and on two golf courses that I’ve always really enjoyed over the years.
And it would have been hard to ask for a sweeter start to my first tournament since signing with Adams Golf than an opening 67, holing a bunker shot on 18 for a closing eagle-3. To be honest, the next couple of days betrayed a slight lack of match practice, but there were lots of positives – the new Adams clubs feel great and I was pleased with my performance on the greens using the short putter the last couple of days. A final round 68 sends me off to the Dubai Desert Classic in good spirits.
This Monday I’m here at the Els Club Dubai, catching up with the guys and playing some golf. It’s not only going to be enjoyable but also a useful bit of extra practice for this week’s tournament. That’s the thing at this early stage of the season; you want to get in as much golf as you can to try to get that sharpness back into your game.
It’s exciting to be back in Dubai again, too. Ask any player and they’ll tell you this is a fantastic week. The Majlis is a great golf course and it’s always in superb condition with perfect, true greens. The tournament attracts a strong field every year, we get looked after wonderfully well, then there’s the weather, the place itself. You get the picture!
From a personal perspective, it feels great to return to a course where you have enjoyed some success. That gives you a lift and also the way the holes play seems to suit my game; I like the lines off the tees and I tend to see shots in my mind’s-eye very clearly.
Four rounds in the 60s is a good effort and in fact that’s always my goal whenever I play here. This is my first appearance here since 2009 and it’s going to be a lot of fun to be part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of this tournament. Congratulations to everyone involved.
Obviously I will be looking to win the event again, but for now I thought you might like a quick trip down memory lane with me…
My three wins in this tournament all carry some wonderful memories. Going back to my debut in 1994, that was huge for me. I shot one of the best rounds of my life, an 11-under par 61, and the way I won that week really gave me a lot of confidence. That summer I went on to win my first major, the U.S. Open, and my first World Matchplay title, and a lot of that was due to what happened in Dubai. Looking back I feel like Dubai really started the ball rolling for me that year.
In 2002 my season started slowly, but my game came together all of a sudden and I played great through February and March and won three straight stroke play events in three different continents, the last of which was the Dubai Desert Classic. The great thing was, I was able to carry that good form into the summer, which is when I won my first Open title at Muirfield. Overall 2002 was one of the standout years of my career and again the Dubai Desert Classic was right at the heart of it.
There’s a funny story with 2005. I almost missed my plane to Dubai and they could only offer me an economy seat at the ‘back of the bus.’ Then they offered me first-class food, which I said would be great as long as they gave everyone else in my row the same food, which they did!
My golf was first class that week, though. The course was perfect and I remember chatting to my good friend Jos Vanstiphout at the start of the week and we decided to be aggressive from the get-go. I shot a bogey-free 66 on the first day. Then playing in the final group on Sunday, I was standing on the 18th tee one shot behind Miguel Angel Jimenez and made eagle to win by one shot, a really special moment and Miguel was amazingly gracious, as you’d expect from such a classy guy.
That’s it for now. Follow me on Twitter @TheBig_Easy