Danny Willett will attempt to end a year long wait for a European Tour win by retaining his title at the 27th Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club.
Other than his famed Masters triumph, Willett has not won an event since his 15-foot putt on the 72nd hole gave him one shot victory over Andy Sullivan and Rafa Cabrera-Bello here last time out.
The world-number-13 struggled for form at the backend of 2016, most recently missing the cut at last weeks Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, following social media drama and a dismal performance at Europe’s Ryder Cup loss in Hazeltine.
A good chance presents itself to the Englishman here, however, where he makes his eighth appearance in nine years as a professional. Although two missed cuts and a failure, prior to his win, to make the top 10 may knock his confidence.
Last years runners-up Andy Sullivan and Rafa Cabrera-Bello return in a very strong European field including, 2007’s winner, Henrik Stenson who narrowly beat Danny Willett to last season’s Race to Dubai title.
Stenson is the events highest ranked player but other big european names include Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters, Lee Westwood, Chris Wood, Matthew Fitzpatrick and newly appointed European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn.
Tiger Woods makes his second start in as many weeks following a thoroughly disappointing missed cut at the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open last week. However, the 14-time major champion does have two wins, in 2006 and 2008, to fall back on here with a stroke average of under 69 in his seven appearances.
Winner in 2013 and 2014, Scot Stephen Gallacher is the only player to even retain this title and will return this week as the joint tournament-score record of 266 (22-under-par) with Rory McIlroy, who is still out with a rib injury, and Bjørn.
For an event that’s been running less than 30 years, the winners list is hugely illustrious with Woods and McIlroy being joined by the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Fred Couples and three-time winner Ernie Els.
Built in the dunes of the Dubai desert, Emirates Golf Club’s Majlis course plays host offering stunning views of the affluent city. The course sits just shy of 7400 yards at par-72. Scores can fluctuate but, as the course isn’t too taxing and with such a strong field, expect a winning score in the negative high-teens potentially breaking into the low twenties.
The prize-fund of $2,650,000 puts the competition in the same ball park as the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and Commercial Bank Qatar Masters setting them apart as the biggest European Tour events of the season this far. The Omega Dubai Desert Classic this week makes up the final leg of the tour season’s middle-east swing.
The European Tour is yet to see a star-name winner this year but many names fitting that category take to the tee in the United Arab Emirates this week to rectify that.