Goose Flies Away with Invitational Top Prize

Abdullah Al Naboodah almost managed to give his 104 invited friends the ultimate links experience in the middle of the desert as the latest edition of the Emirates Airline Invitational proved to be a major success in its first outing at Yas Links Abu Dhabi.

That list of 104 included 52 top professionals from the European Tour, including the world No.1 Lee Westwood and the reigning US Open champion and world No.4 Graeme McDowell.

The Kyle Phillips-designed Yas Links is a true links course, and that likeness was enhanced by the overcast and breezy conditions.

It even rained a bit, but the occasional showers were too short-lived to make it too uncomfortable for the players.

And one man who tamed the course despite the tough playing conditions was South African Retief Goosen, who gave enough indication of his current form with an eight-under par 64 round, which was enough to win him the top professional prize.

It must have been a huge confidence boost for the two-time US Open champion, who is searching for a win on the major Tours for almost two years now.

‘The Goose’ missed the cut in the season-opening Africa Open in his home country last week, but claimed the top prize $150,000 which he will give half to his chosen charity.

Dubai-based Swede Henrik Stenson also set the alarm bells ringing for his rivals with a superb round of six-under par 66, which was matched by Frenchman Thomas Levet. Both players received $62,500 each, and will donate half the prize money to charity.

The team competition was won by Ross McGowan and former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan, who combined well for a total of 12-under-par.

The winning pair was part of the fourball with tournament host Abdullah Al Naboodah and world No.1 Westwood, who happened to be the defending champions.

Golden ticket winner, 11-year-old Dhruv Nair continued his remarkable journey in the tournament by finishing second at 11-under. Nair’s professional partner was Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal.

Welshman Bradley Dredge and Kevin Lecocq were a distant third, three shots behind the runners-up.

Apart from the players and the chosen charities, the other big winner on the day was the host venue, which came in for high praise from almost every professional for the excellent lay-out and the immaculate playing conditions.

“I am playing here for the first time and I must say I really like what I saw today,” said Indian ace Jeev Milkha Singh.

“Each shot requires a bit of thinking, which is the definite hallmark of a great golf course.”

January 2011

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