Just how should McIlroy be priced? With just a solitary victory to show from 61 professional events, it’s hard to argue that 8/1 equals value. Alternatively, anyone taking 8/1 for trading purposes in his recent events would have comfortably laid back at much shorter every time. The latter point also suggests regular place backers can still make a killing out of Rory even as his reputation soars. McIlroy is bidding to become the first player to successfully defend this title, but while his claim is hard to puncture, others represent superior value.
After taking a week longer than ideal to get used to new clubs, Westwood returned to something approaching his Race to Dubai winning form of last autumn with third place in Qatar. That obviously makes him a threat to all, but it’s worth noting that Lee’s long-term record at the Emirates is less consistent than most other venues. He’s had his share of decent finishes, but has never made the top-five so far in 11 attempts.


Having finished no worse than seventh in the past four years, the 2007 champion certainly fits the bill as a course specialist. However, the same could have been said about Stenson last week in Qatar, yet he struggled badly and looks one to oppose right now.

Last week’s winner was fourth at the Emirates last year, his third top-six in this event. I’ve always felt he was a streaky player; well worth following when on a good run and one to avoid the rest of the time. That logic points to another strong challenge in Dubai and with an ideal set-up, the 2008 European number one looks a threat to all.

After another decent effort in Qatar, Oosthuisen’s last eight events in the Gulf have produced a worst result of just 14th, and that run includes four top-fives. Here at the Emirates, his last two results were third and seventh. Nevertheless, at 28/1 bookies rate Oosthuizen alongside or shorter than names that are, with all due respect, several rungs further up the golfing ladder.
Casey played some outstanding tee to green golf in this event last year, yet holed nothing and had to settle for fourth place. That came, however, during the best run of his career, and while his first three rounds in Qatar pointed to an imminent return to form, Sunday’s dismal final round performance suggests Casey still has some work to do after that injury lay-off.