The European Tour remains in The Gulf for one more week as Alvaro Quiros of Spain defends his title in the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club.
This will be the 23rd running of the Dubai Desert Classic and the list of past winners is impressive – Seve Ballesteros, Ernie Els, Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Tiger Woods have all lifted the trophy. Last season Alvaro Quiros took the victory. The Spaniard scored a hole-in-one during his final round en-route to a one-stroke win over James Kingston and Anders Hansen.
The history of the Dubai Desert Classic dates back to 1986 when His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum approved the construction of a golf course in the desert. The Emirates Club opened two years later and the next season Mark James was winner of the inaugural Karl Litten Desert Classic (the competition was originally named after the designer of the course.)
This is a tournament that always attracts a strong field and this year is no different. Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer (ranked 2nd, 3rd and 4th on the Official World Golf Ranking) are all on the start sheet and will be looking to close the gap on World Number 1 Luke Donald. McIlroy won his first European Tour event in this tournament back in 2009.
“It’s always nice to get back to a golf course where I’ve enjoyed success,” said McIlroy. “The memories of 2009 are strong but I feel I’m a more complete player since then.”
Both winners from the two previous events in this year’s “Middle Eastern Swing” will also tee it up: England’s Robert Rock who won in Abu Dhabi will be joined in Dubai by the new Qatar Masters champion Paul Lawrie.
The Majlis Course at the Emirates Club was the first all-grass layout in the Gulf and it’s still recognised as one of the finest tracks in the Middle East. Travelling through the desert dunes, fairways pass seven lakes, desert areas, indigenous flora and the “Majlis” themselves. Arabic for meeting place, these tent-like structures are a distinctive feature sitting between the 8th and 9th holes.
Venue: Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Date: Feb 9-12
Course stats: par 72, 7,301 yards
Purse: €1,920,000 Winner: €315,531
Defending Champion: Alvaro Quiros (-11)
Thursday 9 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Friday 10 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Saturday 11 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 9am
Sunday 12 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8am
Rory McIlroy – Second in Abu Dhabi and a former winner of this tournament, the young Northern Irishman will be highly fancied this week.
Paul Lawrie – The Scot was on imperious form in Qatar where he made the game look incredibly simple. If he can keep playing like that in Dubai, he could well win again.
Thomas Bjorn – The Dane was third in Abu Dhabi then fought back manfully in Qatar after a poor first round of 79. He closed with a 65 and a 68 to finish in the top-25. He won this event back in 2001.
Key hole: 9th. At 463 yards it’s one of the longest par-4s on the course. Add the complication of the water waiting all down the left side to an awkwardly shaped green and you have a real brute.
Skills required: Course management. There are a number of water hazards and bunkers to contend with as well as desert areas around the Majlis course. The winner will plot his way round employing a blend of power and accuracy.
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