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I’m holed up (in some style I might add) at The Moodie Davitt Report’s interim Dubai bureau, the Dubai Duty Free-owned and operated Jumeirah Creekside Hotel. And over the next two days I plan to be holing out in equal style at the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup, which tees off today.
For the first time in years I’ve decided to play both rounds (one is usually quite enough to record as many shots as my rivals manage over two days), the first in the good company of Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin, the second with none other than my partner in publishing crime, Dermot ‘Divot’ Davitt – a former winner of this very championship.
Having averaged single to low double-digit stableford scores over my previous rounds in this Championship, I feel my luck is about to change. This is a year of shocks is it not? After all, one year ago who would have predicted Donald Trump would be elected President of the USA; that the UK would exit the European Union; or, most shockingly of all, that the Irish rugby team would beat my beloved All Blacks after 111 years of trying? So, that ‘Trinity’ of upsets is about to become a quartet and I am going to make a serious run at the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup.
Mind you, the portents are not good. I have played twice (badly) in the past year. I have been afflicted with both the putting and chipping yi…yi…yi…yips for the past decade and, possibly critically, I am entirely without talent with a golf club in my hand. Any golf club, name it.
Does all that keep a good Kiwi down? Does it heck! After our loss on Soldier Field in Chicago, and surrounded here by the Irish diaspora that constitutes half of the travel retail industry, the honour of my nation rests on my puny shoulders. I shall wreak revenge.
However, I may have some competition. Let’s take a look at some of the runners and riders in Golf’s 5th major.
Dermot ‘Divot’ Davitt: A former champion here, the Divot will no doubt swing freely after being released from the pressure of moderating the MEADFA conference over the past couple of days. But there was nothing moderate, I assure you, about his liquid intake on the eve of the tournament or indeed will there be at the Irish Village party tonight. His uncanny likeness to TV host Eamon Holmes has won him the former’s same sobriquet, ‘The housewives’ favourite’, but there aren’t many housewives betting on this tournament and like lightning, and Irish rugby victories over the All Blacks, his previous success won’t strike twice. Odds: 50/1
Patrick ‘Paddy’ Dorais: For a clue to the Al Nassma Director of Sales’ chances look no further than the lyrics to a famous ‘Sound of Music’ song – ‘Do Ray Me’. It begins like this, “Let’s start at the very beginning; A very good place to start.” That’s clearly a reference to Patrick on the first tee, which is about as far as he’ll get before his first air shot of the day. After that, alas, the song (and his game) breaks into “Do, oh dear…” – and that kind of sums up his chances. Patrick Do Ray Me won’t be going far today, so la tee tipster suggests. I’ll have plenty of competition for the trophy from Paddies but frankly not from this one. Julie Andrews, now 86, has a better chance of winning this year’s tournament than poor Patrick who, alas, is not of the Von Trapp but of the sand trap family. And there he shall remain. Odds: According to Wikipedia the biggest number in the world is a googolplex – a one followed by 10^100 zeros. Well we just doubled it.
Peter Sant: In Cognac terms, VSOP stands for ‘Very Superior Old Pale’. In Peter’s case (golfing at least) it means (and we’re being kind here) ‘Vile swing; ordinary putter’. Peter’s short game is more X-rated than XO while his long game is like the ‘Angels’ share’ in Cognac – all air. Odds: 150 Squillion to 1
Colm McLoughlin: The Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman and CEO is reported to be swinging beautifully at the moment but could 18 holes in my company wreak havoc with the Irish master’s form? They call the Irish Prime Minister the Taoiseach and it would certainly be a tee shock if this outstanding Irish leader wasn’t high up the leaderboard. Odds: 12/1
Sunil Tuli: Travel retail’s most infamous former tea planter turned tea planter talks a good game. And talks and talks and talks…
He’s on a dangerous-looking 24 handicap despite rumours that he plays 54 holes a day in Singapore while examining new business development opportunities. Not many people know this but ‘Sunil’ is the Hindi word for ‘outrageous’ and ‘Tuli’ for ‘bandit’. Therefore, expect him to commit highway robbery on day 1 and to be near the top of the leaderboard before outrageous behaviour at the Irish village party sends him sliding down it. Tuli, madly, deeply. Odds: 130 to 1
Art Miller: Like his country’s President Elect this previous tournament winner is determined to make America grate again. Sorry, great. Could he trump all his rivals over the next two days? Certainly he’s among the favourites but then look what happened to Hillary Clinton. Odds: 10 to 1
Jonathan Holland: ‘The Dutch one’ is also known by his many friends as ‘Chaps’. Not, you’ll note, ‘Chips’ and that’s for good reason as most of them are over battered. His short game, in fact, starts on the tee and doesn’t go much beyond it. You’ll recognise him on the course by his quirky, ‘in-out-shake it all about’ swing, his Cary Grant tones and the fact that he spends more time chatting up the Dubai Duty Free assistants than hitting the ball. Odds: 2000 to 1.
David Spillane: The Irishman has form but let’s not hold his criminal record against him (rumour has it that he kidnapped Sherghar a few years back and sent the poor horse’s two front legs to the owner with a ransom note that said “Pay up or he’ll never race again”). If he swings like he did on the dance floor at the MEADFA Gala the other night he could be in with a chance and certainly he’d move heaven and earth to add this tournament to his trophy cabinet. Judging by the amount of time he’ll spend in the sand, moving the earth at least shouldn’t be a problem.
Like all bookies though we’re being careful here and actually splitting his odds into two – pre- and post-Gala evening where reliable sources suggest he may have a scoop or two, and we’re not talking the journalistic variety. Odds: Day 1 – 10 to 1; Day 2 – 79 billion to 1
Dan Cappell: As we’ve said before, Dan can hit the ball a country mile. Oman, Abu Dhabi, Qatar – you name it, you’ll see his ball heading towards one of those countries. Given that we are a family title we won’t use the acronym in questions, but in weighing up his chances we do need to point out that he is a former winner of the Can’t Read A Putt trophy. And he still can’t. Odds: 750 to 1
Walsh, Webster and Maxwell: The swinging barristers, golf’s terrible trio, are back! Wily Welshman Walsh scored 50 stableford points (yes you read it right, that’s 50 points) in our MIS-HIT tournament in Cannes, leading to the event’s first-ever stewards’ enquiry and inaugural drug test (plenty were found on him). The shameless boy from the valleys is playing off 17 today, making him the most infamous burglar since the Pink Panther was in his prime. And as he is the host of the annual Pinkies in Dubai, the form book suggests he could also steal the trophy here. Odds: 6 to 1
As for his fellow legal counsel, Maxwell’s silver hammer may have been a hit in the Beatles’ hands but poor old Gazza with a putter is a different proposition altogether. Chances are if you hear the cry “Four!” on the course, it’s Gazza referring to the number of putts he’s just taken (or the number of goals Southampton let in last week).
Andrew Webster, alas, is suffering from a bad back. Given that his front is pretty awful too, I’d save my money if I were you. Odds: 75,000 to 1 (of not three putting) – Maxwell; 650 to 1 – Webster
James Kfouri: Anyone whose business card says Wonderful nuts has to be taken seriously, and you’d have to be nutty not to think the Aussie salesman from Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds hasn’t got an excellent chance of repeating his previous success here. Odds: 8/1
Barry Geoghegan: Like Roald Dahl’s original ‘BFG’, any story of Barry (who bears the same initials) winning this tournament would count as fantasy. In golf there is a fairway and there is Barry’s way. Much as we love him, alas BFG never, but never in his case stands for ‘Ball flying greenwards’. Odds: 42,000 to 1
Dan Kongsted: Another former winner but frankly you’d be better off backing any of the 101 Dalmations to win here than putting your money on another great Dane success this week. Desperate Dan he may be for a repeat of his 2015 success but I’m telling you, golf can be a cruella game, as he will discover today. Odds: 115 to 1
Catherine Bonelli: If elegance, elan and enthusiasm win a golf tournament then the pocket rocket from Paul & Shark (pictured below) is odds-on to win the Ladies’ tournament. The way she was dancing at the MEADFA Gala the other night suggests she’ll have no trouble with her hip or shoulder turn and another hint that she might be in with a chance this week came in the band’s choice of song when she was dancing. It went like this:
Oh, the Paul & Shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And she shows them pearly white
Just a golf ball has young Bonelli babe
And she hits it, ah, out of sight
Ya know when that Paul & Shark bites with her wedge, babe
The odds well they start to spread
Fancy golf gloves, oh, wears young Bonelli, babe
She’s the favourite, or so it’s said – Odds 33 to 1
Mark Riches: He’s come from a land down under to play in Colm’s tournament and sources say he’s been practicing rigorously. If only he’d practiced his golf instead. With a name like Riches you’d think he’d be in with a chance of the spoils but the only spoils will in fact be what his short game does to his scorecard. I’ve offered to give him pitching lessons today, which, given that I’ve suffered with the yips from anywhere under 100 metres in for the past 20 years, says everything about his chances. Odds: 100,000 Aussie Dollars to 1
Gerry Crawford: According to Wikipedia, a Gerrycan is a robust fuel container made from pressed steel. It was designed in Germany (by the Gerrys of course) in the 1930s for military use to hold 20 litres of fuel. Why do I tell you this? Solely because to any of you who say today ‘Gerry can’ as in ‘Gerry can win this tournament’, I say, ‘Gerry can’t’. Odds: 1 million to 1
Jack MacGowan: He was the star of the MEADFA Conference so the Aer Rianta CEO is clearly good on his feet. But he wasn’t holding a golf club on stage and despite being paired in a likely-looking all Irish fourball with Dermot Divot, it could be a case of ‘hit the road Jack’ today rather than hit the fairway. Odds: 9,000 to 1
Philip Eckles: The CEO of Aer Rianta International – Middle East is playing off 28 but based on recent reports about his game, those numbers may have been transposed. He’s based in Bahrain but may as well be based in the bar today praying for rain, such are his odds. To be fair he’s not without a chance. Slim that is. And none. And Slim just left town. Odds: 150 million Bahraini Dinars to 1
Martyn Westbury: What chance, you may ask. has anyone who cannot spell their first name correctly got of winning such a prestigious golf tournament? Well, plenty actually. He’s playing off 12, his practice has been intense (and, when it’s not raining, outdoors) and he’s many people’s favourite for this. Alas, he’s not mine as we cannot have a spelling mistake win the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup. There’s only one Martin being inscribed on this year’s trophy and that’s me. Odds: 16 to 1
More to come after day 1. I’m off for some yipping practice.