– Bernie McGuire reports from Dubai
It may have taken Jonathan Caldwell a dozen years to tee-up in competition in Dubai for the first time in his career but here’s a golfer clearly excited about what may lay ahead following a brilliant rebirth this year in his professional life.
Caldwell, 37, was so chilled-out ahead of teeing-up in the AVIV Dubai Championship that he chose not to visit the course in the two days prior to the start of the €1.3m event on the Fire course at Jumeirah Estates.
The Clandeboye golfer then went out in the burning afternoon sun certainly not setting the Sergio Garcia course alight in shooting at one-under par 71 but at ease with his hard-fought stature in the game.
Caldwell, winner earlier this year of the Scandinavian Mixed, will head to South Africa in a week’s time in readiness for the opening three events of the new 2021/22 DP World Tour with the enormous comfort of a two-year Tour exemption till the end of 2023.
“I’ve been out here to Dubai to practice in the winter months back home and while I’ve played a few social rounds, including a lot of the Earth course here at Jumeirah, this week is my first Tour event out here in Dubai. It’s nice and the weather is good, so fantastic for golf,” he said.
“The great thing for me this week is that I’ve come here for a first event in Dubai knowing I have my card for next year and that’s a huge bonus for anyone in my position. Having that luxury just takes so much pressure, not only off your game, but now travelling to events knowing I can pick-and-choose pretty much where I want to play.”
What is bizarre, and I have touched on this before in reporting this week form Dubai, is that all the players and caddies entering the Jumeirah Estates this week are driven in courtesy buses via the main entrance and up the entire right side of the 18th hole of the Earth course – host to next week’s DP World Tour Championship.
All about, including the tournament village, there’s workmen scurrying about to get everything ready for the start next Thursday to the €8.3m season-ender. And at 96th on the Race to Dubai, Caldwell would probably need to win on the Fire course if he’s to tee-up among the Tour’s elite on the Earth course, but then he also has other plans.
“It is amazing all the signs and flags and so on promoting next week but I’m not thinking about next week, at all, and in fact I have a flight booked on Monday morning to go to Capetown,” he said smiling.
“So, unless I do something spectacular, it would need to be spectacular for me to be cancelling my flight to Capetown for a week off and then back into competition for the new season.
“I’ll play the three co-sanctioned events and then have five weeks off ahead coming back out for Abu Dhabi and the Middle East Swing. I haven’t played Abu Dhabi nor the Desert Classic, so it’s all new to me and it’s going to be really exciting.
“Then there’s the added excitement of a new DP World Tour, a new schedule and an increase in prize-money, so it’s going to be a busy new season and more and more money to play for, and what better start to the New Year teeing-up in a Rolex Series event in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and get off to a good start to 2022.
“This new DP World Tour is going to be great for every category and not only for the guys on the lower end playing for double the prize-money at events we played this year, but also at the top-end with some huge prize-money tournaments.”
As for his first competition round in Dubai?
“I felt I played okay and I think most of the guys struggled on the greens a little bit as they are pretty grainy, and a wee bit slower than what we are used to,” he said.
“I was down in South Africa last year when this tournament was being played, so this is my first time playing the tournament. Though the course was definitely there for the taking today and it’s a course that suits the guys who hit the ball a lot further, as it’s pretty open off the tees.
“So, pretty happy with my start and hopefully we can go a lot lower tomorrow.”
- Full scoring HERE