By Kent Gray
It might be nearly five years since Ernie Els last won but the Big Easy clearly isn’t kicking back waiting for semi-retirement on the over 50s senior circuit.
The 48-year-old is a confirmed starter for the Jan 25-28 Omega Dubai Desert Classic and hopes a return to his beloved Majlis will trigger a change of fortune after a lean 2017 campaign.
“My hunger for competition is as strong as ever,” said Els, the only three-time winner of the Desert Classic’s famed Dallah whose last victory came at the European Tour’s BMW International Open in June 2013.
“It’s all about fighting hard to get something going, some momentum rolling. Hopefully, good memories of the Majlis course will come in very handy.”
If there is one place Els can count on good vibes it is Emirates Golf Club where lifted the Dallah in 1994, 2002 and 2005. The South African great is a collective 184-under par in 56 rounds on the Majlis since his Desert Classic debut in 1993 and holds the course record of 61, set en-route to an emphatic six-shot victory in 1994 for his maiden European Tour win.
“I think everyone knows I love playing in Dubai. I like the lines off the tees and the greens are quite soft so if you get your ball up, you can shoot some good scores. I always look forward to coming back and playing in this wonderful tournament.”
Els endured a difficult 2017 with 11 missed cuts and two WDs in 20 starts on the PGA Tour for a season long collect of just $155,926. He was in the money in seven of nine official European Tour starts – including making the cut in three of the year’s four majors -with a T13 at the early-season Qatar Masters his year’s best.
There has been more of the same in 2018 thus far – a MC, an injury enforced WD at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and a t51 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open – but Els is unshaking in his belief he can compete again.
“Results-wise, my 2017 season may have been a bit disappointing but the good thing is that I feel like my game has been in better shape than the scores suggested,” said the former world No.1 who boasts 70 professional career victories, including four major titles, two WGC Championships and a record seven World Matchplay titles.
Els is the latest star to commit to the Desert Classic along with Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Ian Poulter, further bolstering a stellar cast headlined by defending champion Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and ‘current FedEx Cup No.1 Pat Perez.
Daily tickets, priced at AED 175, are available online at omegadubaidesertclassic.com
Season passes, which provide access to Emirates G.C. all week, is available for AED 500. Under 16s gain free entry with a adult carrying a valid ticket for the day.