Lowdown:
The European Tour remains in The Gulf this week for the final leg of its “Middle Eastern Swing.” Rory McIlroy defends the title in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club.
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 will be the 21st running of the competition 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 Rory McIlroy secured his first professional title, beating England’s Justin Rose by a single shot.
An impressive field has gathered to contest this event with five of the world’s top-10 players teeing it up.

Venue: Emirates Golf Club, Dubai
Date: Feb 4-7
Course stats: par 72, 7,301 yards
Purse: €1,800,000 Winner: €296,500
Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy (-19)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 4 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Friday 5 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Saturday 6 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 9am
Sunday 7 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8am

Player Watch:
Rory McIlroy – Last year’s winner is ready and eager to win again and a repeat performance at the Emirates Golf Club could well be on the cards. He was on superb form in his last outing at Abu Dhabi.
Louis Oosthuizen – The South African finished tied seventh here last year and has looked threatening in each of the last two events in The Gulf.
Paul Casey – Coming back towards his best form and would have been a contender to win in Qatar had it not been for a poor last round. He’ll be looking to put four solid days in here and, if he does, he’ll be tough to beat.

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. This is a long course but there are a number of water hazards and bunkers to contend with as well as desert areas. The winner will plot his way round employing a blend of power and accuracy.