I’m holed up in The Moodie Report’s interim Dubai bureau, the stylish Dubai Duty Free-owned and operated Jumeirah Creekside Hotel. And later today, I hope to be holing out in style at the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup, which tees off this afternoon. More of that in a moment.
I flew here via that big bird pictured above, the Emirates A380, landing in the wee small hours of Monday morning, a few hours before the annual Middle East & Africa Duty Free Association (MEADFA) conference kicked off.
I missed the Opening Cocktail on Sunday due to the time clash with an even more important event, the All Blacks v Wales rugby match in Cardiff on Saturday, which I attended with The Moodie Report’s own Welsh Mann, Rebecca.
What a game and what an occasion. What a privilege to be in that stadium with the most awe-inspiring supporters you ever saw. Or, more to the point, ever heard. What singing. If I had any hairs on my neck (or head) it would raise every one of them.
But it’s golf, not rugby, that matters today. Let’s take a look at some of the runners and riders.
The reigning champion is none other than The Moodie Report’s resident Irishman, Dermot ‘Divot’ (above), surely one of the most popular winners in the history of the event. Can he do it again? Can ’the housewives’ favourite’ hole out time and again as he did last year to become the first player to retain the championship? Well he was certainly sinking a few last night but as we’re talking pints in the Irish Village rather than putts, as he got all the stress of moderating the MEADFA conference out of his system, he may struggle today. Mind you that never stopped the Guinness-gulping Galwayman last year. Odds: 50/1
Martin Moodie: Like famous racehorse trainer Aidan O’Brien in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, The Moodie Report has multiple runners in the Cup. Alas, this one is golfing’s equivalent of a three-legged, blind horse with vertigo attempting to win the Grand National. Afflicted by the putting and chipping yips and his driving and long irons aren’t much better. He’s got two chances of winning this, slim and none. And Slim, as they say, just left town. Odds: 72 trillion/1
[The only birdies The Moodie Report Chairman will be seeing today, as once again he turns in a crumby performance]
Patrick Dorais: Yesterday the Al Nassma Director of Sales (below in jacket) brought two camels along to the post-MEADFA lunch to publicise the company’s excellent milk chocolate. But frankly having seen Patrick play golf, I believe either camel would have a better chance of winning the tournament than he does. In this very event a few years ago he made history by becoming the first player that a birdie got, as opposed to getting a birdie. The ‘free drop’ is still talked about by fellow players to this day. Odds: 43 gazillion/1
Peter Sant: Rémy Cointreau’s Global Travel Retail Managing Director is a great guy. But, how to put this tactfully… he’s not such a great golfer. VSOP in his case most definitely does not stand for Very Serious One Putter. In fact his game is strictly XO… X-rated & Ordinary. By the 9th hole today he’ll be calling the Piper, but we’re talking Heidsieck not the tune. Odds: 193 cointreau-illions/1
Colm McLoughlin: The Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free is back playing this year after injury kept him out of recent tournaments. Judging by his form earlier this week in a practice round the break has done him no harm at all and with a handicap of 14, allied to local knowledge he must represent good odds at 25/1
Sunil Tuli (above): Not many people know this but the King Power Group (HK) executive started his working life as a tea-planter in his native India. Now the country’s best-known duty free export is better known for tee-planting, his perennial handicap of 24 giving rise to his golfing nickname the Bombay Bandit. All that practice should surely count for something today, right? Wrong. The only Power you’ll see will be on his business card and even though this will make him Tuli, madly, deeply upset, I rate his odds at 150 million rupee-llions/1
Art Miller: A previous winner here, and the former beauty sector executive’s game is in no need of a makeover. Having taken some well-earned R&R following his departure from Revlon, expect the popular American to shoot the lights out today. Enough about US Gun laws though, let’s focus on his golf, at which he is more than capable of turning all those unfortunate Ryder Cup jokes (Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley, Jim Furyk to name three) upside down. Get your Dollars on fast before his odds shorten after day one. Odds: 9/1
Jonathan Holland: Being English, the dapper Singapore-based agent (pictured below with his caddy) loves his fish & chips. He’ll have plenty of opportunity for both today so often will he end up in the water and playing recovery shots from off the green. Known as ‘Chaps’ to his many friends, he plans to use his driver (known as Chaps’ Stick) today to ensure he at least reaches the ladies’ tee. Also known as ‘Gump’ as in Forrest. Which is where he will also spend much of today’s round. Odds: 65 million CaryGrantsound-alike-illions/1
David Spillane: I wouldn’t say he’s got no chance but having seen him in the Irish Village in the early hours putting in a few practice rounds, I’d say you’re better off backing Sherghar to win next year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. The closest the Italian-Irishman (the family name rhymes with Killarney) ever got to a birdie is the Tweeties he stuck on top of his chocolate tubes and when he yells out ‘It’s my round’, chances are he’s not talking golf. Odds: 12 jellybaby-illions/1
John Kammerman: Good to see the former champion, now working for Travalo, back in the industry. Still traumatised by the Ryder Cup, he’s determined to show that Americans can play this game. Odds: 14/1
Dan Cappell: Dan (pictured below in pre-match workout) can hit the ball a country mile. The problem is that it’s usually into another country. Having spent so much of his golfing career in the car parks, it was no surprise to see him take up a role as Car Park Manager at Melbourne Airport last year but now he’s back where he belongs in the sands of the Middle East. And that’s precisely where he will spend much of the next two days. Odds: 250/1
Walsh, Webster and Maxwell: They’re back! They may sound like a trio of aviation sector barristers but the popular boys from the UK are all deft hands on the golf course and any one of them could turn in the week’s premier performance. Who’s our money on? ’Gazza’ Maxwell, a 17th cousin, 45 times removed, to the coffee tycoon of the same name, has a fearsome long game as I can testify having played alongside him in Cannes. But oh that short game… alas it’s not a case of Maxwell’s silver hammer I’m afraid. Just don’t mention ‘Yip’ when he’s putting… (45/1)
Andrew Webster is a passionate Wolves supporter and chances are he’ll let out a couple of howls today as all those pre-tournament late nights erode his confidence around the greens. 80/1.
No, our money goes on Kevin Walsh who, playing off 21, looks the best chance of the higher handicappers. Rumours suggest there’s a lot of money being put on him back in Wales and his fellow countrymen are supremely confident. Then again, that’s what they said before their rugby team played the All Blacks last week and we know what happened there. Odds: 12 leek-illions/1
James Kfouri: You’d have to be nuts to not put a wager on ‘Mr Pistachio’ himself, a former winner of this tournament and, off 18, a real threat again. Can the boy from down under come up tops again and put the ‘cash’ into ‘cashew’? You bet he can. Odds: 8/1
Barry Geoghegan: Affectionately known as ‘BFG’ (we understand that the ‘B’ stands for ‘Bad’ and the ‘G’ for ‘golfer’, not sure about the ‘F’), the popular Irishman was spotted on the range last night. The Craggy Range that is. This careful diet of grapes and water has him perfectly prepared for the ultimate test of the next two days but let’s not talk about the post-round parties. Like an Irishman who hates his vegetables, he’ll be having an almighty struggle with the greens. Odds: 32 shamrock-illions/1
Catherine Bonelli: Can the petite white (Paul &) Shark win the ladies tournament? Certainly if sartorial elegance comes into, she’ll come close. After near disaster in our own MIS-HIT (Moodie International Superstars Honorary Invitation Tournament) when her golf ball exploded on the first tee (below), expect her to bomb a few shots out into the fairway today. When she completes the 18th, it’d be a case of a Paul & Shark’s fin. Odds: 750/1