Rafa Cabrera-Bello will launch his defence of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic alongside compatriot Sergio Garcia and England’s Danny Willett when the first round gets underway at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday.
Cabrera-Bello, who claimed his second European Tour title with a one shot triumph over world-class field that included World Number One Rory McIlroy 12 months ago, is looking to become the first player to retain the Dubai Desert Classic title in the 24th edition of the tournament.
At 1215 local time on Thursday, the Las Palmas man will tee it up with countryman Garcia, who finished runner-up in his first event of the season last week in Qatar, and 2012 BMW International Open champion Willett.
Star attraction Lee Westwood, making his maiden bow in The 2013 Race to Dubai on the Majlis Course this week, has a formidable record in the event, the World Number Eight having played the tournament 18 times previously and captured three runner-up finishes in the process.
The Englishman will begin his quest to go one better at 0745 on Thursday alongside The European Tour’s most recent winner, Chris Wood, who claimed his first Tour title in dramatic circumstances last week in Qatar, where a stunning eagle at the closing 18th last Saturday handed the Bristolian a one shot victory.
Completing their three-ball will be Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee, a memorable winner in 2012 at the ISPS Handa Wales Open at The Celtic Manor Resort.
Mark O’Meara, still the oldest winner of the event when he won at the age of 47 in 2004, will play in a group of great characters at 0725 on Thursday as the 1998 Masters and Open Champion tees it up alongside the unique Frenchman, Thomas Levet and plus-four-sporting Swede, Joel Sjöholm.
Leader of the embryonic Race to Dubai, Scotland’s Scott Jamieson will play in the group following Westwood et al. alongside 2001 Dubai Desert Classic champion Thomas Bjorn and Australia’s Marcus Fraser.
Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli will strike the opening tee shot of the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic – the longest running of the Desert Swing trio – at 0715 on Thursday morning.
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