No pain, no gain: Football and F1 stars feel the nerves in Dubai Desert Classic pro-am

Dubai Desert Classic

Under blissful January sunshine, day two of the Dubai Desert Classic pro-am saw an assortment of English Premier League footballers and Formula One drivers join scores of amateurs in trying to emulate the golfing world's greats on the eve of the four-day tournament at Emirates Golf Club.

Manchester United defender Harry Maguire and Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, two regular England international team-mates, joined compatriot Lee Westwood in a glamour group, with Pickford admitting he found the round a more nerve-wracking prospect than keeping goal for his country.

"I loved it really. Even though I play in front of 40,000 people every week, I'm out of my comfort zone here – it was a bit nerve-wracking," said the Goodison Park custodian, before joking: "Normally my handicap is eight but I think I played off about 28 today. I thoroughly enjoyed it though and I learned a lot playing with a top professional like Westy. I've not played many courses abroad, so this was an amazing opportunity."

International team-mate Maguire, who plays off a six handicap, was delighted to interrupt a mid-season break from club football with his first Dubai Desert Classic pro-am appearance. "I enjoyed it, the course is amazing and to get the chance to play with Lee and score a few birdies was great. We've been looked after really well, it has been a lovely day overall," said the Manchester United captain.

Maguire is looking forward to seeing how the pros do it on day one of the tournament before heading back to duty at Old Trafford. "I'm sure it's going to be special few days for everyone, so I am looking forward to come and watch tomorrow."

Elsewhere, Formula One sensation Lando Norris also swapped the high-octane thrills and spills of the F1 cockpit for the Majlis Course fairways. The 22-year-old McLaren star, taking part in his first ever pro-am event, teed off in a group with Austrian pro Bernd Wiesberger and admitted to being a bundle of nerves.

"I was very nervous for the first few holes," said Norris. "I was shaking on the first few tee shots, but I ended up playing much better than I thought I would. Normally I play a relaxed round with mates, so this was very different – a lot more pressure!

"The course was incredible, and it was great to play with Bernd. It is very interesting to watch a professional at the top of his game in a different sport, to see his approach and his mentality, especially when I am at the bottom level of his sport! It was lovely to get some time away from the cold of the UK, and great to relax as I will be straight back to work when I go home."

Reigning Race to Dubai champion Collin Morikawa led the 2 team of Mike Bevill, Jim Batjer and US Walker Cup star Trip Kuehne to glory with an impressive -33 score, three shots better than Adam Scott's EGA 6 team which featured Jake Skelton, Maurizio La Noce and Matt Ida.

The Dubai Desert Classic takes place from January 27-30. For more information please visit: https://www.dubaidesertclassic.com/