Dubai Desert Classic 2014: The $2.5m hole-in-one shot tempts Rory McIlroy



This is Dubai, and bling is back. If you want to get the attention of a millionaire golfer you have to go big. The Dubai Desert Classic has gone bigger than any tournament on earth with a record jackpot for a hole-in-one at the 17th, a cool $2.5 million (£1.5m). Even Rory McIlroy is interested.

For the organisers, who arrived at the sum as a neat way of marking the tournament’s 25th anniversary,  it is a win-win. They love the attention the prize attracts and they are rich enough not to care if anyone collects.

Indeed, the publicity is probably worth double to a city state on the move. Everywhere you turn in Dubai, concrete is being poured once more. Will it end in the same over-inflated, property-stoked heap as before? Probably, but no one is thinking that way now.

McIlroy is busy driving his own recovery, second last time out in Abu Dhabi and a winner at his previous tournament in Sydney. He will not be holding back at the 359-yard par-four 17th even if the wind is against. Once they move the tees up on Saturday and Sunday, he won’t even need his driver to traverse the 325 yards to the pin.  

“I’ll go for it,” McIlroy said. “If you are confident enough with your driver, why not? If they move the tee up it’s only going to play 295 or 300. That’s a three-wood. No matter what way the wind is, it shouldn’t be a problem to get there. There are not many chances you have to win $2.5m in one shot, so I’ll give it a go.”

Defending champion Stephen Gallacher is not in the same class of hitter as MclIroy, but bought into the theme readily enough, encouraged by the man carrying the bag.  “There’s no way I’ll be laying up for that hole. I think my caddie [Damien Moore] will leave me the driver and run because he is on 10 per cent,” he said.

The hole design features a huge dog leg to the right. The route to the loot is over the trees, cutting out the elbow. The danger lies in getting the incorrect line, or the wrong elevation, as Lee Westwood did a couple of years ago when his ball was claimed by a palm tree. He thought about sending caddie Billy Foster up to identify his ball but there were no ladders long enough.

Despite the risk, Gallacher won’t die wondering. “I think it’s a great thing. It’s quite a blind shot. I bet he [Moore] is out there now getting the line for me. I’ve never seen him work so hard. You’ve got to hit a good shot even to get close. If the wind is favourable you’ll definitely get on it.”

Gallacher goes out in the Hollywood three-ball alongside McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who dismissed concerns about his form after posting a 79 in California to miss last Saturday’s second cut at the Farmers Insurance Open.

“My game was nowhere near as sharp as I would have liked last week. I was just a fraction off, and a fraction off on a golf course [Torrey Pines South] set up that hard bit a lot of us. I think the average score was just over 73 on Saturday. I shot 79,” said Woods.

“I needed to make a few, slight adjustments. I went home Sunday and hit a few shots. I came out here and just wanted to improve.

“It was all right yesterday. I hit it a lot better today. I made a few changes last night and felt pretty good about what I was doing today.”

Woods has won this event twice. McIlroy fancies his chances of becoming only the third player to do so after Woods and three-time champion Ernie Els. It was here in 2009 that McIlroy posted his first professional victory. A year ago he elected to go skiing in Courcheval rather than compete, believing all was well in his world.

He then saw his form go downhill quicker than his skis, a mistake, he said, that he will not be making again. “Last year I felt working on the range, especially with the new clubs was going to be better than playing. It was probably the other way around. I needed to test the stuff out in competition. I sort of learnt that pretty quickly into the season.”

Meanwhile Phil Mickelson’s title defence at this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open remains in doubt following his withdrawal in California because of a back injury. Mickelson made the halfway cut at Torrey Pines but was then forced to pull out of the event before the start of the third round.

If he is unable to play, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood will be among those hoping to take advantage of the five-time major winner’s absence at TPC Scottsdale.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living