Throwback to February 2001…

In February 2001, a golfing great graced the cover of What’s On. Ahead of his first time competing at the Dubai Desert Classic that March, Tiger Woods played a starring role on our February cover. World number one at the time, he happily posed Charlie Chaplin-style for the cover, which I still consider to be one of our best, 550 covers in.

What's On Tiger Woods - Charlie Chaplin cover Feb 2001

That year, Woods lost out on the title to Thomas Björn, a winter resident in the Emirate. But he wasn’t done. Woods would go on to grace the cover of What’s On several more times, including in 2006 and 2008, the two years he claimed the Desert Classic title. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Tiger Woods on several occasions at the winner’s reception, as part of Motivate Media Group’s – then known as Motivate Publishing – sponsorship of the event. It’s a partnership that began from the first tournament in 1989 and continues to this day. As What’s On celebrates its milestone 45th anniversary, the Dubai Desert Classic will mark the event’s 35th anniversary in 2024.

Above: Tiger Woods

While it’s been 35 years since the first Dubai Desert Classic, the iconic Emirates Golf Club course on which it’s played first got the green light several years prior. The then Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, gave his approval for the development of a grass golf course in the desert in 1986. The innovative project opened two years later in March 1988, paving the way for the establishment of a world-class golf tournament, now known as the Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

This year, the tournament will see world number two Rory McIlroy (coincidentally Woods’ successor for the title in 2009) look to defend his 2023 win. He’ll be up against stiff competition though. American Major winner Brian Harman and rising PGA Tour star Cameron Young will both make their debuts at the tournament, while European Ryder Cup stars Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton are both returning to tee it up.

Words: Ian Fairservice, Managing Partner and Group Editor
Images: Getty Images and What’s On Archive