THE BIG EASY’ RELAXED AHEAD OF GIANT ABU DHABI DEBUT
13 - December 2012
Four-time Major winner, reigning Open Championship holder and former world number one, Ernie Els, one of golf’s most-loved players and a favourite with galleries the world over, will make a highly-anticipated debut at next year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship - running January 17-20 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Known as ‘The Big Easy’, Els, currently ranked world number 24, joins four of the world’s top 10 at the first major event in the global golf calendar, including Rory McIlroy (one), Tiger Woods (three), Justin Rose (four) and Jason Dufner (nine).
Despite the illustrious competition, the South African - a two-time winner in Dubai and the Qatar Masters champion in 2005 – is eager to start his third decade on the PGA European Tour with a tilt at Abu Dhabi’s famous ‘Falcon Trophy and another Desert Swing title.
“I’ve played all over the world but this will be my first appearance in Abu Dhabi and I am excited.” said Els, one of only six men to win the US Open and The Open Championship twice. “I have been playing in the Middle East since 1994, I won my first European Tour title in the UAE and I’ve enjoyed a lot of success in the Arabian Gulf; it would be great to add an Abu Dhabi title to my collection.”
While Els’ National Course debut will constitute the business end of his Abu Dhabi trip, the big-hitting 43-year-old is eager to tackle another of the emirate’s world-class courses at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club – the ocean-front course was designed by Els’s compatriot, Gary Player, and borders The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, the Championship’s hotel partner.
“The UAE is full of world-class facilities and Gary’s always telling me about his fondness for Saadiyat. I’ll definitely hit a few balls to help fine-tune my game ahead of the tournament. I’ve designed a few courses myself, so it’ll be good to compare notes.”
Having been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2010, Els won his fourth Major earlier this year with a one-stroke victory at The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes - a victory which propelled him back up to 15 in the world rankings. When not travelling the world playing golf, Els has a golf course design business, a charitable Autism Foundation which supports golf, education and life skills among underprivileged youngsters in South Africa and a number of other businesses.