With six Middle Eastern events announced last week on the 2024 DP World Tour schedule, we caught with DP World Tour’s Head of Middle East, Tom Phillips, to find out more information on the two new additions, Dubai Invitational and Bahrain Championship, and how this part of the world continues to play a pivotal role for the European-based circuit.
Worldwide Golf: We’re starting 2024 with the Dubai Invitational, which will be a Pro-Am tournament at Dubai Creek. Firstly, how much are you looking forward to DP World Tour golf returning to the venue for the first time since it hosted the Dubai Desert Classic in 2000 and is there any more information you can give us on the event?
Tom Phillips: I think the Dubai Invitational is going to be a great addition to our schedule. It’s an evolution of the Invitational hosted by Abdullah Al Naboodah which was first played in 2007 and has been a very popular Pro-Am with our players and amateur guests over the last 16 years. Abdullah joined the European Tour Group’s Board of Directors earlier this year and whilst he has always worked closely with the Tour, he is now doing so on a more formal basis. In a sense, it is a similar scenario with this tournament now officially becoming part of our 2024 Race to Dubai and it will give the event another dimension. The intention is to play the Dubai Invitational every two years, with the Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi, first played this past January, kicking off the calendar year during Ryder Cup years. Dubai obviously has some fantastic golf courses and we’re delighted to be showcasing Dubai Creek to our global audience. In terms of the format of the Dubai Invitational, there will be 60 professionals and 60 amateurs. Teams will comprise one professional and one amateur, with the Pro-Am competition taking place over 54 holes. The professional competition will be 72 holes with no cut, and only the pros will compete in the final round.
WWG: We’ve seen the success and the strength of field at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, do you hope the Dubai Invitational can replicate this in the years to come?
TP: Abdullah has an extensive network of contacts across the Middle East, and with the foundations established since the Pro-Am was first played in 2007, it will continue to be an important event for amateur guests across the region and beyond. As I mentioned earlier, it’s also been a popular tournament with our Tour players, many of whom like to start the year in Dubai and utilise the fantastic facilities and weather to prepare for the season ahead. The Dubai Invitational will form a double-header with the Hero Dubai Desert Classic – our first Rolex Series event of next season – and I think that will be a very appealing way to begin the 2024 calendar year for players. We already have some exciting announcements lined up, so watch this space…
WWG: How exciting is it to see the DP World Tour return to Bahrain for the first time since 2011?
TP: I’m really pleased we’re returning. It’s 12 years since we last played a DP World Tour event in the Kingdom of Bahrain, so it will be great to go back there. Following the Dubai double header and the Ras Al Khaimah Championship, the Bahrain Championship will be our fourth consecutive tournament in the Middle East as part of our International Swing. That will be a really strong start to the calendar year, and I think it will also be a course and tournament that the players will really enjoy.
WWG: Abu Dhabi moving before the DP World Tour Championship makes a blockbuster end to the season. What can fans expect from the brand-new DP World Tour Play-offs in this two-week festival of golf?
TP: We’ve traditionally had a strong Middle East presence on our schedule at the start of the calendar year, but now having two consecutive Rolex Series events in November also enhances the spotlight on this region at end of the season as well. The Race to Dubai will really gather momentum across the season with the introduction of the five Global Swings, followed by the Back 9, culminating with the DP World Tour Play-Offs. Players will be trying to finish inside the top 70 to secure their spot in the Abu Dhabi Championship and then the top 50 for the DP World Tour Championship. The pressure will really build, along with the drama and the excitement for the fans.
WWG: With the leading available 15 players from the top 70 of the FedExCup who are not DP World Tour members being exempt into the final nine events before the play-offs in a bid to qualify for both the Abu Dhabi Championship and DP World Tour Championship, how exciting is the prospect that the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth could be playing out here next year?
TP: With the PGA TOUR’s season finishing towards the end of August, there is an opportunity for these players, as well as our leading dual members, to play in our ‘Back 9’ events once their participation in the FedEx Cup events is over. We’ve already seen an increasing number of these players at the BMW PGA Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in recent years, and you can also see the appeal of say coming to Europe to play in the Open de France and staying in Paris, or the Open de España and spending time in Madrid. That will only help further enhance these fields and there is also the opportunity for DP World Tour members who aren’t already exempt to qualify through their Race to Dubai ranking and their performances in the earlier Global Swings. I think it is a great innovation, especially with it being the leading 15 available non-members from the FedEx Cup top 70, which means we could see a number of different PGA TOUR members crossing the Atlantic for different events on the ‘Back 9’ and bringing something a little different to those fields alongside our DP World Tour members. It also gives these PGA TOUR members to opportunity to try to qualify for the DP World Tour Play-Offs, where they will be considered ‘in addition to’ in terms of the field composition, again, enhancing these tournaments whilst preserving the opportunities available to our core membership.
WWG: With six Middle Eastern events on the schedule, this part of the world continues to play a pivotal role in the DP World Tour’s schedule. How do you see the next five years playing out? Can we expect even more tournaments in the Middle East?
TP: The Middle East has undoubtedly been a very important region for the Tour for a number of years now, and with the various changes we’ve introduced for 2024, it’s prominence and significance will continue to grow. In addition to the six DP World Tour events we’ve announced for next year, we will also have Challenge Tour events through our partnership with the Emirates Golf Federation. Of course, DP World, the title partner of the European Tour group’s main Tour, is headquartered in Dubai and our season long contest, which culminates with the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, is known as the Race to Dubai. The first Tour event in the Middle East was played in 1989 and over the past 34 years we’ve progressively grown our presence and relationships in the Middle East. We have a strong team of staff established here now too. We are all very proud to be play a role in developing the Tour’s legacy in the Middle East and we’re very grateful for the support we have in this region.