The world’s Number One and Seven – Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy – will headline one of the strongest fields in the history of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic as the final leg of The European Tour’s ‘Desert Swing’ prepares to celebrate its 25th birthday.
The elite of world golf will descend on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club to join in the 25th anniversary celebrations of the US$2.5 million tournament, with three-time winner Ernie Els, World Number Three Henrik Stenson and Englishman Barry Lane – the only player to have competed in all 25 editions of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic – joining McIlroy and Woods in the emirate.
The quarter century celebrations will start with the Champions Challenge on Tuesday, when Woods, who took the title in 2006 and 2008, will be partnered by his fellow American Fred Couples (the 1995 winner) and defending champion Stephen Gallacher of Scotland.
Twenty former champions, with a combined total of 25 Major victories, will be taking part in the Champions Challenge, while the 1992 champion, the late great Seve Ballesteros, will be represented by his son, Javier.
The full tournament field features 85 European Tour winners with a total of 401 Tour victories between them.
McIlroy boasts a superb record in the event, following up his maiden European Tour victory in 2009 with successive top ten finishes over the next three years.
The Ulsterman arrives in Dubai with his game in fine fettle after finishing joint runner-up behind Pablo Larrazábal in his last appearance in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Woods’ record in the desert is even more impressive, having finished inside the top five in his first five appearances in the tournament.
Woods will be making his seventh visit to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, which represents the most appearances he has made in a regular European Tour event.
The 14-time Major Champion said: “I appreciate the support I’ve received from the people in Dubai, and I always enjoy playing the tournament. They have an outstanding field every year, and the golf course is always in really great shape.”
The man who has enjoyed the most success in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, however, is Woods’ fellow Major Champion Ernie Els.
In addition to his three victories, in 1994, 2002 and 2005, the South African has recorded a further six top three finishes in just 11 appearances. En route to setting the current course record of 61 on the opening day in 1994, Els posted 12 birdies – equalling The European Tour record for the most in a single round.
The Omega Dubai Desert Classic has been the catalyst for the huge growth in the game’s popularity in the region, with 54 tournaments having been played in the Gulf since the inaugural edition in 1989, won by England’s Mark James.