UAE - Like any other person preparing for a retired life after giving his all to the cause, Mike Stewart was hoping for a sunshine-laden last assignment in Dubai, a city where he has been DP World Tour’s Tournament Director of the Dubai Desert Classic for the past 34 years.
Stewart was involved when England’s James Mark won the inaugural Desert Classic in 1989, and in all these years, he has never witnessed the kind of scenes that have player out on the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club over the past two days.
A weather system has dumped over 60 millimeters of water on the golf course – 41mm on Wednesday, 16mm on Thursday and nearly 7-8mm on Friday – which has left all of Stewart and other organisers’ plans in tatters. It has led to a six hours 15 minutes delay on the opening day, and a two hours 50 minutes delay on Friday.
The DP World Tour, in association with the promoters Falcon Golf, title sponsors Hero, all associate sponsors and players, has now decided to finish the tournament as a 72-hole event, extending the schedule to Monday.
With none of the players having made the turn in their second round, it would take up almost the whole of Saturday. The third round will be played on Sunday and winner of the Dallah Trophy will be decided on Monday.
It also helps that most players are travelling only to Ras Al Khaimah next week, and none of the bigger stars like Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood are playing the Pebble Beach even on the PGA Tour.
“I think this championship is too important to curtail it to 54 holes. I think the vast majority of players want it to be 72 holes. That’s what they want, and I think it’s the right thing to do for the championship,” explained Stewart.
“This is fairly rare. We have had one rain stoppage before. We had rain and lightning in 2007, and we stopped for two hours, 15 minutes and gone back out again, that was on the Friday, and that's the only stoppage we've had previously for rain.”
On his upcoming retirement, Stewart said: “Not quite the tournament I was hoping for before my retirement. No, I’d hoped for something slightly different. Wall-to-wall sunshine would have suited me.
“I think they just wanted to keep me for an extra day. And I am happy about that.”
World No1 McIlroy was among several stars who were vocal in their appreciation of the effort by the course maintenance and the service staff at Emirates Golf Club.
“This is unbelievable,” McIlroy said after his opening round 66. “This is a region that’s not built for rain. This is not something that goes into the plans because there’s very rarely any rain, so they have done an amazing job.
“Obviously, there’s still some standing water out there in places, but the conditions in terms of tee boxes, fairways and greens are amazing. They really have done a great job.”
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