Monty wants bigger ‘Desert Swing’

Colin Montgomerie would like to see the European Tour’s ‘Desert Swing’ extended beyond its present four events.

Colin Montgomerie would like to see the European Tour’s Desert Swing extended beyond its present four events.

The victorious Ryder Cup captain at Celtic Manor last year and designer of the Royal Golf Club in Bahrain where the first-ever Volvo Champions was played last week, has told Reuters: “There is no reason why the European Tour cannot expand the Middle East swing to five or six events.

“I’ve played before in an Egyptian Open and while there is trouble over there at present, we have to be talking of including Egypt in the future, as well.

“To have these Middle East events all together is ideal because it’s so easy once you are out in this part of the world to travel from say Abu Dhabi to Bahrain, and then Bahrain to Doha, and Doha to Dubai.”

Monty welcoming words to the Middle East won’t fall on deaf ears for already the Saudi Arabia Golf Federation have held talks with leading European Tour officials as to the possibility of their country being included in the European Tour.

Saudi Arabia is situated close Bahrain, the flight from Bahrain to the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh taking no more than 45 minutes..

Yusuf Eddiweesh, the vice-president of the Saudi Arabia Golf Federation, told Reuters: “Yes, we had a good meeting with the European Tour, and yes, we said to them, we would welcome the European Tour in Saudi Arabia..

“We have one or two excellent venues in Riyadh that could host the event so we shall see what transpires.”

The first European Tour event launched in Middle East was the 1989 Dubai Desert Classic with the Qatar Masters being added to the Tour’s schedule nine years later in 1998.

Then. based on the on-going success of these events, Abu Dhabi then stepped onto the tour with yet another successful venture, the HSBC Championship in 2006.

And then last week the new Volvo Golf Champions tournament in the Kingdom of Bahrain joined the desert swing with the intention of becoming a special new early-season event for all the tournament winners of the previous year.

The Race to Dubai finale at the end of the year is not part of the ‘Desert Swing’, coming as it does many months later, but it, nevertheless brings the number of Tour events in the middle East right now to five and counting

If financially powerful Saudi Arabia and Egypt joins its Middle East neighbours and near neighbours and brings the number of events in this region to say seven, it would put them up there with Spain and China as the countries that host the most European Tour events and place them well ahead of major golfing nations like England, Ireland and Scotland in this respect. .

Monty, however, believes extending the number of events in the region will be good for the game.”

He said: “I believe it’s only about 35 minutes flying time from Bahrain to Riyadh, while you could drive there in a few hours,

“So the good thing for all the players, the caddies and the officials is that it’s all confined out here and there’s not that much travelling involved.

“It’s just fantastic, and the more we can play out here in this part of the world and give opportunity to our members to play golf, and to use our Ryder Cup success to promote our Tour in the Middle East, the better it will be.

“I for one am all in favour of increasing the Middle East swing as I was for the Tour to come to Bahrain.

“Five to six events out in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia would be a fantastic asset for the European Tour and the big spin off (for those hosting the tournaments) is that it would open up the country as a golfing destination.

Montgomerie also sees the Desert Swing as a growing threat to the US PGA Tour’s West Coast swing and said, “It was great to see Phil Mickelson out in Abu Dhabi because he must finally have seen what a first class European Tour tournament it is.

“And with HSBC support now, they have ensured that tournament has gone from 4-star to 5-star..

“We have got Tiger (Woods) coming back to Dubai and the likes of Phil and Tiger can only go home from those events thinking ‘hang on, these events are something! I really didn’t know how good they were’.

“Then the Tour is in Qatar this week where the current World number one (Briton Lee Westwood) and number two (German Martin Kaymer) are competing, so once again that boosts the prestige of the European Tour for yet another week.”

Last weekend’s Bahrain winner Paul Casey echoed Montgomerie’s positive view of an expanded ‘Desert Swing’..

“The growth of golf (facilities) in this region is obviously massive. I don’t have to tell you that,” the Briton said.

“It’s something different. I’ve never been to Bahrain before so I was intrigued and I’m glad I came. I’m not playing Dubai but I’m going to play in Qatar this week and then head back to the States. So for me, it worked out brilliantly.”