In 2004, Mark O’Meara, a two-time major champion, closed with a three-under 69 to capture the Dubai Desert Classic by one stroke over Paul McGinley. After McGinley missed an eagle attempt on No. 18 from over 70 feet, O’Meara two-putted from 12 feet for the victory.
It was his first win since capturing the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale in England.
It would also be his last.
With the Hero Dubai Desert Classic beginning on Thursday at the Emirates Golf Club and his 67th birthday around the corner, O’Meara recently reflected on his memorable week at the club two decades ago, and on a career that resulted in 16 PGA Tour wins. In 2015, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
The following conversation has been edited and condensed.
Can you believe it’s been 20 years?
I do remember distinctly that week in 2004, going over there with Tiger [Woods]. I think I started going to Dubai in 1998 or 1999. At 47 years of age, to win a tournament of that magnitude was a blessing.
What came together for you that week?
Whenever I went overseas, I always wanted to try to perform at my best. Yes, I was probably getting compensated for being there, but I just didn’t want to go over at any event and not put on a good show.
What attracted you to playing in Dubai, over the years?
Dubai, I always thought, was a very fascinating city, culture. When I won at the Emirates course, there was the Hard Rock Cafe in a building to the right of the course, and there was hardly anything there. And now when you look at the 18th hole and guys are hitting in there, it looks like New York City. The development of Dubai over the last 30 years has been an incredible thing to see.
And the golf course?
It kind of reminded me a lot of playing in the desert. I never won in Palm Springs, but I lost a playoff a couple of times. I lived in the desert. I liked desert golf.
Are you satisfied with your career?
I am. At 66, getting ready to turn 67, I’ve had a dream life. Do I think I could have done better? Maybe. But I certainly also believe I could have done a lot worse. For me, I feel like the two majors at 41 were the cherry on the top of a banana split.
What was it like when you got the call you were in the hall of fame?
[The PGA Tour Commissioner] Tim Finchem called me. I thanked him and called my wife and I said, “Hey, I got something to tell you, but I don’t want to tell you till I see you in person, and I’m coming home right now. I’ll be home in 10 minutes.” I came in and I told her and I broke down. And I was emotional when the ceremony [at St. Andrews] went on.
Why did you win so many times at Pebble Beach?
My first time, I think I was maybe 19 or 20, and I went up to play in the state amateur, I was blown away by the immense beauty there. It was just phenomenal. Then to win the amateur the next year. Almost winning [the PGA Tour event at Pebble Beach] in ’84 and then winning in ’85, I think any time you come back to a place where you’ve had fond memories, it helps give you an extra little boost.
Would you have maintained your enthusiasm and drive if you hadn’t become close to Tiger?
This last April, at the [Masters] dinner, I reached over and grabbed his arm, “I just want you to know something. You changed my life.” And he didn’t know what to say. He looked at me, kind of grinned and smiled and said, “We had a lot of great times together, didn’t we?” I said, “You have my number. Just know my phone is always on for you or your family.” He made me a better player, and I felt like I had a big impact in his life.