Retief Goosen Wins Middle East Curtain-Raiser

It's one of the most popular and prestigious Pro-Ams in golf... and the field this year certainly reflected that.

41 European Tour Champions, 11 Ryder Cup players, three Major Champions and the reigning World No.1 played in surprisingly undesert-like conditions today, at Yas Links Golf Club in the Emirates Airline Invitational, hosted by Abdullah Al Naboudah.

Yas Island Links Golf Course where the invitational took place for the first time this year, is the first links golf course in the Middle East.  Designed by Kyle Phillips who created The Kingsbarn Course at St. Andrews it no doubt evoked the images of the Scottish seaside today in overcast conditions uncharacteristic of Abu Dhabi.

Goosen's eight-under 64 win in the professional round today, coming at the start of the European Tour's Middle East Swing may help reignite the two-time US Open Champion's winning fire.

The tournament's hospitable host Abdullah Al Naboodah... a passionate and prodigious golfer himself... played with W#1 Lee Westwood today. The pair didn't manage to defend their 2010 team title this year however...  and the 2011 win went to Ross McGowan and former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan.  50% of all of today's winnings will go to charity.

Later this week the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship tees off at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, followed by the Volvo Golf Champions, in Bahrain, The Commercialbank Qatar Masters in Doha, Qatar, and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in Dubai.  It's the The Middle East Swing, and the number of events, the elite fields and the spectacular courses are all evidence of how dramatically the region's golf profile has grown.

Photos: Emirates Airline Invitational, official site