Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’

Rory McIlroy has won a record four Dubai Desert Classic titles. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 February 2024
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Rory McIlroy reminisces about Dubai’s Majlis course, ‘where everything started’

  • Irishman has won record 4 Dubai Desert Classic titles at Emirates Golf Club

DUBAI: Following his latest triumph in the UAE, world No. 2 Rory McIlroy had nothing but praise for the region’s longest-standing golf event, the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, a tournament he said allowed him to “reminisce” about his career.

The Northern Irishman etched his name in Dubai history after he became the first four-time champion at Emirates Golf Club to cap off the event’s milestone 35th anniversary celebrations in January.

McIlroy, who added to his previous victory tally on the Majlis course in 2009, 2015, and 2023, provided a thrilling weekend for fans as the reigning champion pulled back a 10-shot lead held by Cameron Young to secure his fourth Dallah trophy.

On his personal journey, alongside the city’s growth on the world stage, the 34-year-old player said: “The arc of my career and Dubai as a city have tracked each other pretty consistently along the way.

“I remember my first Dubai Desert Classic as an amateur back in 2006, when we were staying 10 minutes away in what was almost like being out in the desert, and it’s so built up now compared to then.”

In his first visit as a golfing enthusiast, McIlroy would follow his heroes around the Majlis course, with the Emirates Golf Club providing a unique full-circle moment in his career.

“For my first year at the event, I took a media pass and walked inside the ropes to follow Tiger (Woods), Ernie Els, and Thomas Bjorn and then I think about even the arc of that. Thomas is my Ryder Cup captain, I ended up buying Ernie Els’ house, and I’ve become really good friends with Tiger.

“To think about my first visit 18 years ago, and what it’s meant to come here and play in this event, having now won it four times, it’s always been a place I come back to and reminisce about my career as it’s where everything really started,” he added.

The 2024 tournament saw thousands of spectators in attendance with unique moments being enjoyed on and off the greens with the addition of a new-look fan experience.

Several major international certifications also added to the tournament’s legacy for advancing the sport in the region, having become the first golf event in the Middle East and first DP World Tour Rolex Series to achieve Golf Environmental Organization-certified tournament status in recent years.

The 36th edition of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic is set to return in January with a strong line-up again expected to take to the Majlis course as part of the season-opening event on the DP World Tour Rolex Series calendar.

Simon Corkill, executive tournament director of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, said: “The historic 2024 edition which just concluded, drew huge crowds across the four days of the tournament.

“Our preparations have already begun to make next year’s event even bigger and better. We are determined to raise the bar even higher for 2025 by not only attracting a stellar field of golf stars but also to ensure there’s a wider range of entertainment and activities for all ages.”


Nelly Korda ties LPGA Tour record with 5th straight victory, wins Chevron Championship for 2nd major

Updated 22 April 2024
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Nelly Korda ties LPGA Tour record with 5th straight victory, wins Chevron Championship for 2nd major

  • The world’s No. 1 player hasn’t lost a tournament since January, and now she’s a two-time major champion
  • Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) as the only players to win five consecutive LPGA events

THE WOODLANDS, Texas: Nelly Korda couldn’t have imagined the incredible run she’s put together this season while at home recovering from a blood clot that required surgery in 2022.

“Because obviously then I was just more scared for my health,” she said. “Competing was kind of on the back seat. I was not thinking about competing at all. But I think all of the sad times and the health scares that I have gone through have made me who I am today.”

Fully healthy now, Korda is seemingly unstoppable. The world’s No. 1 player hasn’t lost a tournament since January, and now she’s a two-time major champion.

Korda etched her name in the LPGA Tour record books Sunday, winning her record-tying fifth straight tournament with a two-stroke victory in the Chevron Championship.

Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) as the only players to win five consecutive LPGA events. Her previous major victory was in 2021 at the Women’s PGA Championship.

“It’s been an amazing feeling these past couple weeks knowing that I can go on this stretch and that if I stay in my bubble and I keep golf in a sense simple and let it flow, then I can have so, so much fun out here,” she said.

Korda shot a 3-under 69 in the final to outlast Maja Stark of Sweden, who birdied her final two holes to shoot 69 and pull within one. Korda stayed aggressive on the par-5 18th, easily clearing the lake in front of the green and setting up an easy up-and-down birdie for a two-shot victory.

She had a four-day total of 13-under 275 at Carlton Woods.

Korda nearly aced the par-3 17th, with her tee shot hitting the hole and hopping in the air before settling within 10 feet. She settled for par to maintain her two-shot lead.

Korda wowed the large crowd, which followed her throughout the day, by chipping into the wind for birdie on the par-4 10th hole to take a four-stroke lead. The 25-year-old raised her club above her head with one hand and pumped her fist after the ball rolled into the hole.

Her parents — former Australian Open tennis champion Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtova — beamed as she was presented with the trophy.

“She had a difficult ‘22 and ‘23 in certain ways,” Petr Korda said. “She did not win a tournament in ‘23 and some things probably made her humble and (she) put a lot of work into where she is right now. Without the work and commitment, she would not be here. So seeing that, I’m very happy.”

Korda’s older sister, Jessica, is a six-time LPGA winner who’s taking a break from golf after giving birth to her first child.

Korda took home $1.2 million from a purse of $7.9 million, a significant increase from last year’s purse of $5.2 million. That brings her season earnings to $2,424,216 and her career earnings to $11,361,489.

Winners had been jumping into Poppie’s Pond off the 18th green at Mission Hills since 1988, and Korda became the second to do it in Texas by doing a cannonball off a small dock into brown-tinged water. World No. 2 Lilia Vu was first to jump into the pond here after her win last season. Vu withdrew from this year’s tournament before the first round after experiencing “severe discomfort” in her back during warmups.

While still shivering from her post-win plunge Sunday, Korda confirmed she’ll be competing in the JM Eagle LA Championship next week in Los Angeles. She was then asked about the possibility of becoming the first to ever win six straight LPGA tournaments.

“I’m going to enjoy this right now and then I’ll think about that,” she said. “But yeah, it’s been an amazing time. Hopefully keep the streak alive. But I’ve been so grateful to compete week in and week out and get the five in a row, too.”

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler is on a similar tear, on his way to a fourth victory in five starts until rain interrupted the final round of the RBC Heritage. He couldn’t help but check in on Korda.

“I actually was checking the scores this afternoon when we were in the rain delay,” he said. “I’m extremely happy for her and proud of her. That’s some pretty special stuff. It’s been a treat to watch.”

Korda entered the last round one shot off the lead after completing the last seven holes of the weather-delayed third round early Sunday morning on a windy and unseasonably cool day. She was wiped out after her big win because she’d been up since 4 a.m. to prepare for the end of the third round.

She birdied two of her first four holes to take the lead. Lauren Coughlin birdied Nos. 13 and 14 to get within two strokes, but bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes put her four behind. She shot a final-round 68 to finish tied for third with Brooke Henderson.

Coughlin got emotional when discussing her best finish in a major.

“It’s really cool to see all of the work that I’ve put in, especially with my putting and my short game, and putting specifically showed off this week, as well,” she said.

Henderson was tied with Korda for second to start the last round after she shot a 64 in the third round to set a scoring record for the tournament since its move from Mission Hills, California, to Texas last year. But the Canadian, who has 13 LPGA wins with two majors, also faltered early in the final round, with a bogey and a double bogey in the first four holes.

Haeran Ryu of South Korea shot a bogey-free 67 to enter the final round leading Korda by one. But the 2023 Rookie of the Year bogeyed the first two holes of the fourth round. She closed with a 74 and finished fifth.

Eighteen-year-old amateur Jasmine Koo provided an unlikely highlight on the 18th hole. Her second shot bounced off the advertising board in the water and back into play. She ended up with a birdie to shoot 71.


American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh

Updated 20 April 2024
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American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh

  • ‘Pretty special to finish back-to-back events holding the trophy,’ Caitlin says
  • Australian Wade Ormsby finishes runner-up with final day 64

RIYADH: American professional golfer John Catlin won the 2024 Saudi Open, presented by the Public Investment Fund, after completing his wire-to-wire victory at Riyadh Golf Club on Saturday.
He finished seven shots ahead of his nearest challenger on 24-under-par.
From the moment he teed off on Wednesday, Catlin was in the groove, and his final round was a procession.
Having shot a men’s course record 62 on Friday, the American followed it up with 66 on Saturday, his fourth consecutive round in the 60s in Riyadh.
It is Catlin’s sixth Asian Tour title and his second in a row, having beaten Spaniard David Puig in a playoff at the International Series Macau in March, and his form was simply too hot for the rest of the field to handle.
“I am tired, but very, very happy,” Catlin said. “I’ve never gone back-to-back like that. It is pretty special to finish back-to-back events holding the trophy. It was just a special week and I feel very lucky to be the champion.
“I hope my victory shows the fans that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. I have dreamt about being a professional golfer since I was about 8 years old and I just kept putting in the hard work.”
He added: “I never let anything stand in the way of what I wanted to do, and I’d say that to anybody: if you want to follow in my footsteps, you have to put in the hard work and be willing to sacrifice, then great things can happen.”
Catlin was full of praise for organizers of the 2024 Saudi Open, and said he looks forward to defending his title in 2025.
“It was very well organized. The tournament was awesome. From start to finish we were looked after amazingly, and the people were friendly. The hospitality has been great, the food has been awesome — everything about this event is top class and I look forward to coming back in the future.”
Wade Ormsby’s final day 64 saw him finish second, two ahead of Peter Uihlein and Kiradech Aphinbarnrat in third.
The Australian admitted that it just proved impossible to haul in the runaway leader.
Ormsby said: “John had a big lead, it was difficult, you just want to go out and play as well as you can. There were a couple of potential tiny openings there, but he closed the door straight away. I am really happy with the way I played.”
Reigning champion Denwit Boriboonsub finished in style after a disappointing Friday saw his chances of retaining his trophy slip away.
The Thai golfer shot 63, the joint-second lowest round of the week, but enjoyed his time back at Riyadh Golf Club.
The 20-year-old said: “I’ve enjoyed and relished being the defending champion. It helped me a lot with a two-year exemption on the Asian Tour, which relieves a lot of pressure, and winning means a lot. Yesterday wasn’t so good, but I bounced back and I’m very happy with the score.”


John Catlin sets himself up for victory going into final round of Saudi Open in Riyadh

Updated 19 April 2024
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John Catlin sets himself up for victory going into final round of Saudi Open in Riyadh

  • American shoots men’s course-record 62

RIYADH: John Catlin continued his dominance at the 2024 Saudi Open on Friday as he shot a men’s course-record 62 to open up an eight-shot lead at the top of the leaderboard at Riyadh Golf Club.

The American began the third round one shot ahead of Scott Hend and Haotong Li and signaled his intentions early with two birdies in his first five holes.

It was a special back nine that saw him pull away from the field as six birdies, including two in his final two holes — which also earned him the PIF Moment of the Day — put him in the driving seat for a sixth Asian Tour victory.

Thai favorite Kiradech Aphibarnrat made the biggest move of the chasing pack and will head out with Catlin in the final group on Saturday.

His round of 67 moved him into second place with Wade Ormsby, David Puig, Hend and Li one further back.

If he is victorious on Saturday it will mark back-to-back wins on the Asian Tour for Catlin after he lifted the International Series Macau trophy in March, but the 33-year-old is taking nothing for granted ahead of the final round.

He said: “My game has felt in good shape. Today was just one of those days where the putter just gets hot and it’s like you can’t miss. I kept going and tried to make as many birdies as I could because there are so many good players out here and there are plenty of birdies to be made tomorrow. I knew I had to keep the pedal to the metal.

“Nothing changes tomorrow: the job is not finished. David (Puig) has shown he can shoot some really low numbers and there are a lot of other guys very capable of doing that here.”

It is Catlin’s second trip to Saudi Arabia but his first to Riyadh, and after his record-breaking day he admitted he will be back in the Kingdom whenever he gets the chance.

“I’ve loved it here. The people have been so friendly to me, the facilities are really good and I love the course. I will be back whenever there is a tournament here,” he said.

South African Jaco Ahlers produced the day’s second-best round with his 65 moving him to 7 under par, while LIV Golf star Peter Uihlein catapulted himself up the leaderboard after four birdies in four holes to start his back nine took him to the same score. Uihlein is looking forward to an attacking final round.

He said: “You’ve got to shoot 10 under tomorrow to win — I’m going to try. Hopefully my caddie will let me hit the driver on some holes where I probably shouldn’t, and just have a go.

“I played nicely on the front, but it was a different wind. I felt like the back nine, with the way the wind was, is easier than the first couple of days, so I thought I could make some birdies. I didn’t birdie the 15th or 18th hole, which is disappointing.”

Moroccans Othman Raouzi and Ayoub Lguirati, the two invited Arab golfers who managed to make the cut, endured difficult days and both sit over par heading into the final round.


Chasing 5th straight win, Nelly Korda is 2 shots back at Chevron Championship after a first-round 68

Updated 19 April 2024
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Chasing 5th straight win, Nelly Korda is 2 shots back at Chevron Championship after a first-round 68

  • She could join Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) as the only players to win five consecutive LPGA events
  • Defending champion and world No. 2 Lilia Vu withdrew because of a back injury

THE WOODLANDS, Texas: Nelly Korda, who is looking to tie an LPGA Tour record with her fifth straight win, shot a 4-under 68 on Thursday in the opening round of the Chevron Championship, leaving her two shots behind leader Lauren Coughlin in the year’s first major.

Coughlin shot a bogey-free 66 in windy conditions at Carlton Woods, which is hosting the event for the second time.

The top-ranked Korda is seeking her second major after winning the Women’s PGA Championship in 2021. She could join Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) as the only players to win five consecutive LPGA events.

Korda said she was battling fatigue from recent tournaments at the beginning of her round. She bogeyed her first hole, the par-4 10th.

“I (could) definitely still feel maybe a little bit of tiredness, so it took me a while to get going,” she said. “I felt the nerves definitely at the start of the round. Once I made the turn, I was just playing free golf.”

She made her first birdie on the par-4 14th hole, something she half-jokingly credited to a snack.

“I actually had an apple on 13, and that gave me actually a nice boost,” she said. “I felt a lot better after that. Maybe I should have apples more often.”

The 25-year-old finished with six birdies, including four in the final six holes.

“Two of them were par 5s, so I got to take advantage of that with my length,” she said. “Hit a really good tee shot, and then I was just on the front of the green on 17, and the other one I was just on the fringe, too. I two-putted pretty much for birdie on those. Then I had wedge shots in on the other two, too. Taking advantage of my length and hitting good tee shots.”

Marina Alex and Japan’s Minami Katsu also shot 68. Lydia Ko was one of five players at 69.

The 31-year-old Coughlin, who played in college at Virginia and has never won on the LPGA Tour, made three birdies in a four-hole span from Nos. 2-5. She believes her game has benefited from her recent decision to make husband John Pond her full-time caddie.

“He’s really good at talking through everything when I want to get really fast and make a decision really quickly,” Coughlin said. “He is really good at putting all the work in, all the extra work, all the extra walking ... making sure the strategy is really good and double checking everything. But ... he’s always been really good with how he talks to me and communicates what he thinks I need to do and how I need to do it.”

Defending champion and world No. 2 Lilia Vu withdrew because of a back injury. She issued a statement on Instagram saying she had “severe discomfort” in her back during warmups.

“I have been dealing with a back injury for a while now,” Vu said in the statement. “Some days are better than others, and today was unfortunately not a good day. During my normal warmup routine, I had severe discomfort in my back and I felt that I could not compete up to my standards and made the decision to withdraw from the tournament ahead of my tee time.”

She added that she was returning home to see her doctors and determine the next steps.

Later in the day, last year’s runner-up Angel Yin withdrew because of an injury after shooting 78.

A win by Ko would put her in the LPGA Hall of Fame. She won the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in January for her 20th LPGA title.

The 26-year-old New Zealander admitted that she still gets nervous before tournaments despite all her experience and success.

“It doesn’t matter what event we’re playing or what circumstances, when you’re younger you want to get away from the nerves,” Ko said. “To some extent as long as you can control it the nerves are good for you and you’re able to excel and get the adrenaline to hit some shots that you may not be able to execute when you’re just practicing.”


Li and Hend one back of Catlin while Moroccans Lguirati and Raouzi make cut at 2024 Saudi Open

Updated 18 April 2024
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Li and Hend one back of Catlin while Moroccans Lguirati and Raouzi make cut at 2024 Saudi Open

  • John Catlin birdied the 18th to remain at the top of the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF leaderboard
  • Moroccans Ayoub Lgiurati and Othman Raouzi made the cut as Saudi amateur Khalid Walid Attieh missed by one stroke

RIYADH: Li Haotong and Scott Hend made the most of the calm morning conditions to head into the weekend one shot behind pacesetter John Catlin, who leads on 10-under-par after day two of the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF.

Catlin birdied the 18th hole as the sun set on a warm day at Riyadh Golf Club to ensure he heads into Friday ahead of Chinese star and DP World Tour member Li, who shot a scintillating 65, and Australian Hend. Steve Lewton’s 64 was the best round of the day and sees him in third place alongside David Puig, who finished his round with a triple bogey on the ninth hole.

Amateur Khalid Walid Attieh looked set to make history as the first Saudi player to make the cut since the tournament was elevated to the Asian Tour, however three bogeys on the back nine saw him miss out by one, with a putt just sliding by at the last.

Moroccan golfers Ayoub Lguirati and Othman Raouzi, who were two of the golfers given special invites to the tournament as part of Golf Saudi’s strategic partnership with the Arab Golf Federation, finished on one-under-par and even par respectively to extend their participation.

Lguirati said: “It was a positive day for me with only one bogey and one birdie. I stuck to my strategy all day and ended with a good result in a tough competition. I am very happy to have made the cut in this tournament and to play over the next two days.

“I usually play on the second tier Asian Development Tour but with the help of the Royal Moroccan Golf Association and Golf Saudi I have been able to reach this level and I continue improving.”

Meanwhile, Li is excited to challenge for the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF trophy as he looks to put some recent poor form behind him. Four birdies in five holes on his back nine catapulted him up the leaderboard.

Li said: “I played really well and wasted some chances. The course played a lot easier compared to yesterday, because of no wind and easier pin positions.

“I am still struggling a little bit off the tee, but except for that everything’s pretty solid overall. I am here to try and get the job done and get the trophy! So hopefully I have a hot start tomorrow.”

Li will play alongside Hend and Catlin on Friday, but will be wary of Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Puig in the penultimate group, who won the PIF Moment of the Day for a stunning front nine of 29, which included five birdies and an eagle in his first six holes.