As the world of golf fixes its gaze on the United Arab Emirates for this week’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, four Falcon trophy contenders Justin Rose, Ernie Els, Jason Dufner and Matteo Manassero experimented with a golf-meets-darts contest at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.
With each golfer partnering an HSBC global sporting ambassador, the two-man teams were challenged to play 109-yard approaches onto the sixth green of the Gary Player-designed ocean-front course.
Each shot accrued points based on where the ball landed in rings of natural grass or sand circling out from the pin. A hole-in-one scored a team 360 points, the five-feet ring 180 points, the 10-foot ring 140 points, the 15-foot ring 100 points and the 20-foot ring 60 points. Balls landing on the green but outside the rings collected 20 points.
Teams were split into semi-finals and given six shots – or darts – in total with each player taking three. The team with the highest score after six shots progressed.
The first semi-final saw Justin ‘Valentine’ Rose, and former British tennis No.1 Tim ‘Tiger’ Henman, face-off against Jason ‘Dangerous’ Dufner and dynamic Welsh rugby fly-half Jonathan ‘The Wizard’ Davies.
Rose and Henman judged the warm Saadiyat Beach breezes to near-perfection. Still, the English duo trailed Dufner and a red-hot Davies by 40 points as Henman readied for his final shot.
The former world number four’s towering wedge eventually pitched in the outside ring to score 60 points and seal victory by a mere 20 points.
“That was a special bit of fun before the tournament,” said Dufner. “Fair play to Tim, he stepped up when it counted.”
The second semi-final saw 19-year-old sensation Matteo ‘Mighty’ Manassero and Gareth ‘The Prince’ Edwards, rugby union legend and former Wales and British Lions scrum-half, square-up to reigning Open champion Ernie ‘Big Easy’ Els and former Scotland rugby captain Gavin ‘Braveheart’ Hastings.
There was nothing close about the second semi, however, as Manassero and an inspired Davies smashed the Els-Hastings duo 580-120.
“It was good fun on a beautiful hole and that’s the first time in my life I’ve played with a red ball,” Els said of the Championship red balls of title sponsor HSBC. “And it’ll be the last - I was horrendous!”
In the final, Rose and Henman set a mammoth six-shot target of 620 for Davies and Manassero, who couldn’t replicate their earlier effort and fired a total of 420.
“I brought my ‘A’ game and I’ve definitely honed my competitive edge ahead of the Championship,” said Rose. “Tim was superb, he kept us in going in that first game. Hopefully this is the first victory of many this season.”
Click through our photo gallery to see the stars taking on the new sport. Ever tried anything like this before? Let us know in the forum below or on Twitter @Golfmagic.