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Last minute effort for Race to Dubai

by Justin Armsden, CNN
Rafael Cabrera-Bello with the incomplete houses that surround the course.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello with the incomplete houses that surround the course.
  • Organizers faced a late rush to get the tournament up and running
  • The Dubai World Championship taking place on the city's outskirts
  • The course has been the subject of mixed reviews from players

The Earth Course, Dubai -- (CNN) -- While Europe's best golfers were focusing their attention this year on chasing a share of the $15 million on offer for the Race to Dubai the event's organizers were in a mad scramble to just get the tournament up and running.

The Dubai World championship is very much on the outskirts of the city where everything looks three-quarters finished. Driving up the entrance to The Earth Course you see incomplete concrete shells of houses that look like big gray elephants.

The few villas that were completed look terrific and are a sign of how the area will look in the future but who knows when everything will eventually be done. That's a common theme in Dubai.

Those completed villas were once on the market for $6 million but now sell for about half the price.

"You get the feeling that everything about this place says it's just hanging on by a thread," said one spectator to me earlier in the week.

Video: George O'Grady eager to bounce back

The course's clubhouse nearly got built but didn't, so a temporary one was erected within a couple of months and sufficiently does the job.

Cosmetics have been applied throughout -- even on the course that has come with mixed reviews from the players.

But at least it is hanging together which is far better than what the players had predicted mid-way through the year where many of them were sure "The Race" was over.

It is testament to the people behind the Race to Dubai, from the European Tour, the government, to the Leisurecorp staff that the event started at all on Thursday.

I don't think we will ever be back to the halcyon days, I think that's stuff is done, it was crazy
--Greg Norman

Under the worst economic circumstances for a generation, where Dubai's high-stakes game of mass development severely buckled, the team behind the concept have ploughed on under the cruel strain of uncertainty.

Staff are in overdrive, somehow finding the energy for one last push to make the event as successful as possible and prove its value.

The players are incredibly grateful to be here, not just through qualifying among the top 60, but they know just how perilous the situation has been and without the efforts of those behind the scenes the rich tournament would have been blown away faster than a desert dune in a Dubai sandstorm.

I chatted with Greg Norman on Wednesday, who knows a thing or two about the golf industry surviving a recession. He has played or worked through three.

"I don't think we will ever be back to the halcyon days, I think that's stuff is done, it was crazy," he explains.

"30 to 40 times leverage on property developments! You wouldn't run your house like or buy or buy a car, so it's weeded the weak out -- a lot of people who probably deserve to be where they are right now."

Norman says it has been a reality check for everyone in golf, including the players.

"It's interesting for them to be aware of the threshold they are on right now. Players who have been in the game 10-15 years have seen the real halcyon days and there is a correction going on," says Norman.

"Many of those players have seen their portfolios shrink dramatically."

No wonder all the players here are smiling.

Europe Tour CEO George O'Grady says he is confident that the Race to Dubai and the Dubai World Championship will continue next year.

Like the landscape around the DWC the build-up to the first ever Race to Dubai season has been a bit dusty but every effort should be made to see the event through for its first five years.

If it can survive these troubled times then the future is bright for the concept and so too the growth of the professional game, albeit without such decadence.