Omega Dubai Desert Classic Preview, Picks & Analysis
CASES of Covid-19 have reached worrying levels in the Middle East but that hasn’t stopped a stellar field from committing to the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club.
Lee Westwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick join the likes of Tyrrell Hatton, Collin Morikawa, 2017 champion Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Christian Bezuidenhout and defending champion Lucas Herbert.
Morikawa will tee it up at the Majlis for the first time having burst into the limelight as a major champion in his first full season as a professional at the US PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
The 23-year-old finished fifth in his first season on the Race to Dubai and has three titles to his name on the PGA Tour. He is relishing the prospect of competing for a first overseas title in Dubai at an event which has a roll call of winners including Seve Ballesteros, Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Tiger Woods, and Rory McIlroy.
“When you look back at some of the players who have won the Dubai Desert Classic, you realise that it is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world and I’m looking forward to trying to add my name to the roll of honour,” said Morikawa, who is regarded by many as being the best iron player in the game. “I’ve been told that the Majlis course is a fantastic setting and I can’t wait to get there and see it for myself. This year has been a memorable one for me on the golf course and I’m excited to see what 2021 has in store.”
With Ryder Cup points now on everybody’s minds, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey, who boast 26 European Tour titles between them, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Matt Wallace will also be heading for Dubai, with Wallace looking to go one better than his runner-up finish in 2019.
Westwood has been a runner-up on three occasions in 1999, 2010 and 2012 and is keen to add more success in this part of the world, having previously won the DP World Tour Championship in 2009.
“I’ve always enjoyed Dubai Desert Classic and if you look at my results here you could say the course suits me,” said Westwood, who has 25 wins to his name on the European Tour. “I first played this event in 1994 and the changes and growth of Dubai since then has been quite staggering. There are a lot of good holes – the 8th is spectacular, teeing off towards the skyscrapers, and the 18th especially is a great finishing hole. This is a title I’d love to win having come close in the past.”
Fitzpatrick will be making his seventh consecutive appearance in the event, dating back to his rookie season of 2015, during which he won the first of his six European Tour titles at the British Masters.“This is one of the iconic venues on the European Tour and it’s an event I look forward to every year when I begin my season in the Middle East,” said Fitzpatrick, who in 2018 at the age of 24 became the youngest Englishman to reach five wins on the European Tour with victory at the European Masters, surpassing the record previously held by Nick Faldo.
“I have enjoyed my off-season having celebrated the win at the DP World Tour Championship and I’m excited to get going again ahead of what should be a very busy year with The Ryder Cup on the horizon in September."
Casey will be making his first start in the Dubai Desert Classic since 2014 and has never missed the cut in seven previous starts, with a share of fourth place in 2009 representing his best result.
“I’m looking forward to returning,” said Casey, who will be going in search of a 15th European Tour title. “I love playing in Dubai, it is one of those events that jumps out as one of the most prestigious on the European Tour and it’s one I’ve always enjoyed competing in. I know the course well and I’m happy to be starting my 2021 European Tour campaign in the region again.”
Poulter, a 12-time European Tour winner, has teed it up on the Majlis for the last four editions and will be making his 11th career start in the event having made his debut back in 2001. “I love coming to Dubai as it’s the perfect environment to start the season,” said Poulter. “I’ve played well here over the last few years with two top-10s and I’m keen to try and improve on that and take home some silverware this time. The Majlis is a course that I feel comfortable on and I can’t wait to get started in a few weeks’ time.”
Cabrera Bello is a Dubai resident and has strong ties with the event having won his second European Tour title on the Majlis in 2012. The 36-year-old has been an ever-present since 2010 and has two additional top-10s to his name, runner-up in 2016 – which helped him to qualify for a Ryder Cup debut later that year – and a share of sixth place in 2018.
Bezuidenhout missed out in a play-off to Lucas Herbert last year but put the disappointment behind him by later winning back-to-back titles on home soil – claiming his third European Tour title at the South African Open just a week after victory at Leopard Creek – to end the best season of his career in seventh place in the Race to Dubai. “Last year’s play-off defeat was tough but I’m proud with how I played because I learned from it. This is a big event and with that comes playing under a lot of pressure,” said Bezuidenhout. “I had a great end to the year and I’m looking forward to continuing that form into 2021.”
Wallace is searching for a fifth win on the European Tour, having finished runner-up on five occasions since he last tasted success at the 2018 Made in Denmark. Three of those second-place results have come in Dubai – at last year’s Golf in Dubai Championship presented by DP World, the 2019 Dubai Desert Classic and the 2018 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai – and he clearly enjoys teeing it up in the city.
“There is something really special about playing in Dubai and it really would mean a lot to win the Dubai Desert Classic,” said Wallace. “This will be my fourth appearance in the event and it’s one I look forward to when I sit down to plan my schedule. The list of past winners speaks for itself and there is always a strong field so it should be a great week.”
The tournament was won in 2015 by Rory McIlroy, in 2016 by Danny Willett, in 2017 by Sergio Garcia, in 2018 by Haotong Li, in 2019 by Bryson DeChambeau and last year by Lucas Herbert.
Tommy Fleetwood. Adores this part of the world
Tyrrell Hatton. Looking for another big week
Christian Bezuidenhout. Class act
Tommy Fleetwood. Consistently brilliant
Tyrrell Hatton. Is there a more entertaining player?
Christian Bezuidenhout. Hugely underrated
Collin Morikawa. Fabulous iron player
Marc Warren. A man reborn
Robert MacIntrye. Full of self-belief
Lee Westwood. Still a brilliant ball striker
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Short game to die for
Sergio Garcia. Which Sergio will turn up this week?
Matt Wallace. Ready to win big again
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