Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Stars turn out for Dubai Desert Classic's birthday

January 28, 2014 -- Updated 2249 GMT (0649 HKT)
Tiger Woods tees off at the eighth as the Dubai Desert Classic celebrates its 25th year by inviting all former winners to compete in Tuesday's Champions Challenge -- a warm-up event to Thursday's main event. Tiger Woods tees off at the eighth as the Dubai Desert Classic celebrates its 25th year by inviting all former winners to compete in Tuesday's Champions Challenge -- a warm-up event to Thursday's main event.
HIDE CAPTION
Classic Dubai
Desert Vision
Illustrious list
Proud Representative
Flowing Fairway
Happy Couples
Set Sail for Success?
Lane Man
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some of golf's biggest names celebrate the 25th birthday of the Dubai Desert Classic
  • Woods, Els, Couples and Olazabal among those playing an invitational tournament Tuesday
  • Woods in relaxed mood despite poor start to the season at Torrey Pines

(CNN) -- The year 1989 launched the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament and the baseball film 'Field of Dreams' but the latter's famous line about how building a sports field in an unlikely setting would draw in major players can certainly apply to both.

In fact, there are few better examples than what is today the Emirates Golf Club.

Twenty-five years ago, the course was surrounded by acres of barren desert -- with barely a skyscraper to be seen in what was little more than a sleepy United Arab Emirates trading post.

Nonetheless, the rulers of Dubai had the finances and inclination to back their extraordinary vision for what is reality today.

They also had the verbal skills to persuade European PGA Tour organizers to stage an event far from their traditional home -- and in Asia for the first time.

The results have been spectacular.

RidicuList: Worker falls through roof
Emirates CEO: We'll be on all continents
Tiger Woods tonight on Unguarded
Rio's Olympic golf course
A new generation of golfing stars emerge

On Tuesday, the roll call of champions that turned out to celebrate the Dubai Desert Classic's 25th birthday included some of the greatest names in the sport: Tiger Woods, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ernie Els, Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie among others.

Mark James, the first man to win a tournament originally called the Karl Litten Desert Classic, was also in attendance.

The only one of the 21 former winners to miss the anniversary was Seve Ballesteros, who died three years ago, but the legendary Spaniard was represented by son Javier.

The 23-year-old law student, who made his debut on the Challenge Tour last April, went round in a respectable two-over par.

Read: Prime time running out for Tiger

Yet most eyes were, as usual, on Woods, especially after the world No. 1's disastrous seven-over round at the weekend at Torrey Pines, a course where he has recorded eight victories.

Woods finished in a tie for eighth position, paying the penalty for a double bogey after finding water on the 18th, but he seemed wholly untroubled by his poor start to the season as he played alongside Fred Couples and Stephen Gallacher, who won last year's Desert Classic.

"Playing with Fred is always a blast," Woods told the Dubai Desert Classic's official website. "I have known him for so long and he is almost like a big brother to me."

The 14-time major winner first played in Dubai in 2001, when his reported appearance fee of $3 million generated plenty of global headlines.

He has gone on to win the tournament twice, with his last victory coming in 2008 -- the same year as his last major triumph.

Tuesday's event was won by Sweden's Henrik Stenson and Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain, who share the Champions Challenge trophy after both finished six-under par.

"It's a great place for me, it's always good fun to be back and celebrating the 25th anniversary this year is also very special," said world No. 3 Stenson, who lived in Dubai for nearly a decade.

"There's not many tournaments going on for that many years and we had a great roll of champions here so it's been a good event."

Yet the real contest will take place on Thursday, with a strong field featuring Woods, Stenson and Rory McIlroy among others.

There will also be a special place for Barry Lane, the 53-year-old Englishman who is the only player to have contested every single edition of the tournament.

Having finished sixth in the inaugural event, he has witnessed at first hand the remarkable transformation of Dubai from empty space to thriving international metropolis -- a genuine field of dreams.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
It's a big dilemma: Be with your wife for the birth of your first child, or stay at work and try to earn $11 million. For Billy Horschel, it's a no-brainer.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1140 GMT (1940 HKT)
She's just 19 but Hyo Joo Kim is already showing she's ready for the big time after recording the lowest ever round at a major championship.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Masters champion Bubba Watson says winning the $10 million FedEx Cup jackpot would bring forward his retirement from the game.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1131 GMT (1931 HKT)
EVIAN-LES-BAINS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 15: A view of the 14th green during the third round of The Evian Championship at the Evian Resort Golf Club on September 15, 2013 in Evian-les-Bains, France. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
The world's top women golfers will be chasing a $3.25 million prize purse at one of the most stunning courses on the LPGA Tour.
September 3, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
Tom Watson selects Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson as his wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup contest with Europe.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1352 GMT (2152 HKT)
Ian Poulter kept Europe clinging on in their Ryder Cup battle with the United States in Chicago.
Ian Poulter, who has constantly haunted the U.S. in Ryder Cup golf, is back after being chosen as a wildcard by European captain Paul McGinley.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Tiger Woods has split with his longtime coach Sean Foley after not winning a major during their four-year tenure.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 1105 GMT (1905 HKT)
Success just keeps on coming for Rory McIlroy, but the world No. 1 is already targeting more titles following his second PGA Championship win.
August 8, 2014 -- Updated 1424 GMT (2224 HKT)
From Seve's "spine-shivering" moment to Jack Nicklaus' "perfect explosion," David Cannon has captured many of golf's defining images.
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
They came home as casualties of war -- physically shattered and mentally broken. But golf is proving to be an unlikely salvation for U.S. veterans.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
You are the one hitting the shots, but the man standing over your shoulder could hold the key to your golfing destiny.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
PINEHURST, NC - JUNE 10: Rory McIlroy (R) of Northern Ireland talks with his dad Gerry McIlroy (L) during a practice round prior to the start of the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Course No. 2 on June 10, 2014 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
He has been there for all three of his son's major wins, but the latest triumph may well have been the sweetest yet for Rory McIlroy's father.
ADVERTISEMENT