After the most dramatic of denouements in Doha last week, where Chris Wood eagled his way to a maiden European Tour title, europeantour.com puts the spotlight on five men to watch out for at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic – the final instalment of the Desert Swing.
This week will also mark the third in the latest European Tour Fantasy Race 2013 so be sure to keep this quintet in mind when you register your team for this season's game. And, with weekly, monthly and season-long prizes up for grabs, as well as the all-new Top Ten Challenge, there is sure to be plenty to play for this year.
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It would be both churlish and indeed unwise to overlook the Englishman at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The former World Number One has played in the event 18 times, finishing inside the top ten on seven occasions and coming closest to victory with three runner-up spots in 1999, 2010 and 2012. The Worksop man clearly has an affinity with the stunning Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club.Westwood, this week making his first appearance on The 2013 European Tour will head into the 24th edition of the Desert Classic as the highest ranked player in the field and clear favourite, hoping this year to finally go one better and get to hoist the elegant trophy aloft.
Winner of the Dubai Desert Classic in 2007, when he triumphed by one shot over three-time champion Ernie Els, Stenson is another man with an excellent record over the Majlis, having amassed a further four top-tens in 12 previous appearances at the Emirates Golf Club. Stenson finished in a tie for 20th in 2012, a performance that heralded something of a return to form for The Ryder Cup star after a lean period by his high standards. The Swede, following his solid return in Dubai, went on to post seven top ten finishes last season en route to a 40th place finish in The Race to Dubai – his best since 2009 – including a first win in five years at the SA Open in November and a tied seventh at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship down the road at Jumeirah Golf Estates. The seven-time European Tour champion looks to have brought that form into the 2013 season, too, starting the year with a tied 22nd at the Volvo Golf Champions, a tied 23rd in Abu Dhabi and a tied 16th last week in Qatar.
We at europeantour.com have to hold our hands up and admit this could seem a tad lazy, what with the Englishman having featured previously in our ‘Five to watch’ in Qatar, but Casey, making his first appearance at the Dubai Desert Classic since 2010, cannot be ignored. Casey finished a modest tied 37th last week, but that still maintains a solid run of form for 11-time European Tour winner, who has not missed a cut since early October last year. The Cheltenham man has good form at the Emirates Golf Club as well, having finished in the top 20 in all five of his previous appearances here, the best of which came in 2009 when he placed fourth as Rory McIlroy recorded his first win as a professional.
Making his first start of the year last week in Qatar, Garcia was unfortunate to miss out on a play-off for the Mother of Pearl trophy as eventual winner Chris Wood’s heroics down the last saw the Spaniard – and South Africa’s George Coetzee – finish second by one shot after a final round 66. Has played here five times previously, his best finish coming with an 11th place in 2009, and is due another European Tour title after winning on the US PGA Tour and Asian Tour in 2012, as well as his key contributions to Europe’s success in The Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club.
The Chilean-born Swede, one of the most popular players on The European Tour and widely known for his love of colourful plus-fours, made a good run at it in his first appearance at the Dubai Desert Classic in 2012. Sjöholm eventually finished in a tie for ninth after consecutive rounds of 66 on Friday and Saturday last year were tempered by a more modest level par 72 on the final day as Rafa Cabrera-Bello prevailed. Sjöholm loves Dubai – the Swede is sponsored by the Atlantis The Palm Hotel – and he could well be set for another good finish so keep your eyes peeled for those plus-fours ploughing their way round the Majlis again this week.