The longest-running European Tour tournament in the Middle East, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, has incredibly, in the last two years, provided two winners who subsequently went on to win the Masters Tournament that same year. Here is everything you need to know about this week’s event…
The Rub of the Green – When Sergio Garcia stormed to a three-shot victory at Emirates Golf Club last year, before going on to claim a maiden Major title and a Green Jacket at Augusta National, he became the second player in as many seasons to do such a double. The man he dethroned in Dubai a year earlier – Danny Willett – also happened to be the man to hand him the Green Jacket on that fateful Sunday evening in Georgia last April. They proved the first two of three victories for Garcia in a season which he has described as his most memorable, having gone on to win on home soil later in the year at the Andalucía Valderrama Masters hosted by his very own charitable foundation. Having won the Asian Tour’s Singapore Open last week, he arrives for his title defence this week in perfect nick.
A true Classic – The Omega Dubai Desert Classic is the European Tour’s longest running event in the Middle East and the history of this tournament and venue have been closely interwoven with the tour since the event’s inaugural edition in 1989, won by former Ryder Cup player and Captain Mark James. Since then, the roll of honour includes ten different Major Champions: Seve Ballesteros (1992), Ernie Els (1994, 2002, 2005), Fred Couples (1995), José María Olazábal (1998), Mark O’Meara (2004), Tiger Woods (2006, 2008), Henrik Stenson (2007), Rory McIlroy (2009, 2015), Danny Willett (2016) and Sergio Garcia (2017).
Easy does it – Ernie Els has forged a reputation as a legend of this particular event, having first written his name into its folklore in 1994 by firing a course record 61 in the first round en route to a wire-to-wire victory. That was the first of three triumphs on the Majlis Course, although the next one did not come for another eight years when he soared to a four-shot victory in 2002, before making it a hat-trick of wins three years later. In his first 11 appearances at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the four-time Major winner did not finish lower than 11th, including three wins, three runners-up and three third-place finishes.
Triple-glory for Rory? – Much like Els, Rory McIlroy has an incredible record in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the event at which he earned his maiden European Tour victory in 2009. In his last seven appearances at the Emirates Golf Club, he has not finished outside the top ten, with a second victory coming in 2015 to begin a season which would culminate in him being crowned Race to Dubai Champion, courtesy of two more European Tour victories, at the WGC-Cadillac Matchplay and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
Tommy’s Dubai hoodoo – For a player of the calibre of Tommy Fleetwood, the Englishman’s record at Emirates Golf Club is not a strong as one might think. The reigning Race to Dubai champion, and the current Race to Dubai leader after his successful title defence in Abu Dhabi last week, recorded his best finish here back in 2013 – a share of tenth spot. While he has only missed two cuts in six appearances in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, his best finish outside that top ten result five years ago, is 47th.