MAIN CANDIDATES

LEE WESTWOOD

The world number one is a worthy favourite after last year’s outstanding six-shot victory, although 7/1 is just too short for my liking. There are no holes to pick in his claims, especially after an extremely unlucky second place behind Molinari in Shanghai.

MARTIN KAYMER

Kaymer was surprisingly well beaten here last year, but I have no doubts the course is suitable given his skills and record in the Gulf. He will do well not to be distracted by the added pressure of the Race to Dubai, as so many others involved in tight money list races have been previously.

GRAEME MCDOWELL

G-Mac really has been superb in taking the fight to Kaymer, and on the last couple of weekend’s evidence must rate a strong contender. 30th last year was nothing to write home about, although that should be measured against the context of a terrible opening 76.

IAN POULTER

Likewise, there’s no good reason why Poulter can’t retain the superb form shown over this past fortnight. He finished strongly to make the top-ten here last year, and was runner-up in Abu Dhabi back in January.  

LUKE DONALD

Although one should always be wary of writing off a man with ten top-three finishes to his name this season, Luke must be seriously disadvantaged by the length of this course. That could explain why he only finished 37th last year.

OTHER CANDIDATES

PADRAIG HARRINGTON

Though it is hard to back Harrington with any confidence these days, he did make the shortlist. He wasn’t in particularly great form before finishing fourth last year either, and is always likely to be suited by such a ‘second-shot’ layout, with forgiving fairways. He did win last month’s Johor Open, too.

ROSS FISHER

Ross certainly has the long game to thrive here, and has been playing well without reward since winning the Irish Open. Last year’s 42nd was very disappointing though.

ERNIE ELS

Despite solid recent form, Ernie is strongly opposed. Last year’s poor result in 50th mirrors other recent failures on courses with very fast greens. He is not the same putter that built up such a great record in the Dubai Desert Classic.

MATTEO MANASSERO

Sunday’s superb finish confirms Manassero as the best teenage golfer I’ve ever seen, for whom the sky is the limit once he’s developed some power off the tee. However at this stage, the Earth Course could be too long at 7,700 yards,.

RETIEF GOOSEN

Given that he’s rarely been at his best, an annual return of 12 top-tens is surprisingly impressive. He therefore warrants respect, without being the most obvious pick.

PETER HANSON

Hanson is first reserve, as he has a consistent record in the region, and is enjoying his best season to date. A distant sixth at Sheshan last time was easily his best form since the Ryder Cup.

FRANCESCO MOLINARI

Though he warrants great respect after that recent WGC triumph, Francesco is yet to produce his best in the Gulf, as illustrated by last year’s 30th.

CHARL
SCHWARTZEL

There are too many negatives to consider backing Schwartzel, such as missing his last two cuts and finishing 53rd last year. I do believe this course suits him, though.

DANNY WILLETT

Having only been seen struggling at Sheshan since withdrawing from a couple of tournaments, Danny is under something of a cloud. If he is fit and prepared, he certainly has the length to contend, and had looked an imminent winner before this break.

JOOST LUITEN

Another one for the shortlist, and at attractive 80/1 odds too. Luiten is bang in form, registering three straight European top-fives before finishing 14th in Singapore, which promised more.

2010 STATS: +70pts

LONG-TERM ALREADY ADVISED

5pts MARTIN KAYMER TO WIN THE RACE TO DUBAI @ 9/1