Tuesday, 29 January 2008

As the defending champion playing in his ‘second home’, and having recorded consecutive second place finishes in the past fortnight, Henrik Stenson should be among the favourites to win the 2008 Dubai Desert Classic.

That is, of course, until Tiger Woods’s entry form lands on The European Tour’s doorstep, at which point Stenson’s odds, like every other player in the field, become considerably stretched.

The fact that many bookmakers are offering only even money on the World Number One claiming his second Dubai Desert Classic title at the Emirates Golf Club this week is indicative of Woods’s formidable form.

The American, who started his 2008 season exactly as he finished 2007, by winning comfortably on the US PGA Tour, has won six times in his last seven competitive appearances and, as a result, is being tipped to expand his dominance of the sport.

While Stenson acknowledges that it is impossible to argue that Woods is not the best in the business, he feels he is equipped to give the World Number One a run for his money, especially at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai, where the Swede held of the challenge of Woods and Ernie Els among others on his way to a memorable victory 12 months ago.

Asked if he believes Woods can be beaten, Stenson replied:  “I have to, otherwise there's no point in playing really.  It's going to be hard, that's for sure.  The odds might not be the best, but, you know, there's definitely a possibility.

“He just seems to be in great shape, and I think everybody feels the same that it's going to take some really good golf to challenge him this week.  But you have to believe it.  I've done it once so I've sort of proven it myself that I've won a tournament where he's played at least.”

As a full-time resident in Dubai, Stenson, naturally, has a special affinity with this week’s tournament. He has been a regular visitor to the Emirates Golf Club over the past year, and would love to defend the title in front of many of his friends and family.

“It's just been a nice feeling every time I've been to the club since I won last year.  You've got the picture in there and you've got your name on the trophy.  So it's always nice to come back to the Emirates Golf Club when you have won the Desert Classic, and at least have a chance to win it twice, two in a row.

“Being based down here, this is my second home tournament, so to be able to win in front of family and friends was just unbelievable last year – hopefully I can do it all again.”

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