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2024 Hero Dubai Desert Classic Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 15 Jan 2024

Of course all eyes will be on defending champion Rory McIlroy as he tries to become the first four-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic this week but nobody will need to tell him that he is going to have his work cut out.

Major winner Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton and rising star Cameron Young are set to tee it up in the 35th anniversary edition of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

They will join defending champion and McIlroy at the iconic Emirates Golf Club for the first Rolex Series event of the 2024 Race to Dubai.

Rory McIlroy

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Reigning Open Champion Harman sealed his maiden major title at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in July during a stellar season which saw him notch up six further top tens - including two runner up finishes - on the PGA Tour and make his Ryder Cup debut in Rome in September.

Harman, who is making his Dubai Desert Classic debut, said: “I’m excited to tee it up in Dubai for the first time. It looks like a stunning venue that has identified great champions. I’d love to add my name to that list!”

Dubai resident Fleetwood is familiar with the Majlis Course, with the Englishman returning for his 13th consecutive appearance at the event just days after he edged out McIlroy at the Dubai Invitational.

Fleetwood said: “This an event that I love, I’ve played the Hero Dubai Desert Classic every year since I came out on Tour. I look forward to playing in front of friends and family again in January.”

Hatton, who enjoyed Ryder Cup success alongside European team mates Fleetwood and McIlroy in Rome, has four top ten finishes in his nine previous Hero Dubai Desert Classic appearances. He has also tasted past success in the region, with the last of his six DP World Tour titles coming at the 2021 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The English star will be seeking a record-equalling fifth Rolex Series win when he tees it up in Dubai once again.

Hatton said: “It’s always a great tournament and I’ve played well in the past. I’m looking forward to getting back to Emirates Golf Club and hopefully adding to my success in the region.”

American Young will join compatriot Harman in making his Hero Dubai Desert Classic debut, and just his second regular DP World Tour event appearance following the 2022 Genesis Scottish Open.

The 26-year-old, who was named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year for the 2021/22 season, enjoyed five top ten finishes this past season, including runner-up at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and T7 at the Masters, adding to his burgeoning major credentials following top three finishes at the US PGA Championship and The Open in 2022.  

The American said: “I’m looking forward to getting over to the Hero Dubai Desert Classic for the first time. I’ve heard many great things about both Dubai and the event. It’ll be a fun week of competition to help kickstart my year.”

There is also one for the future in the field. Keep a close eye on Michael Thorbjornsen, who has earned his place after finishing the fall college golf season as the PGA Tour University's number one player.

The 22-year-old, who won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2018, competed at last year's Dubai Desert Classic on a sponsor's invitation, finishing in a share of 20th place in his first start on the DP World Tour and earning low-amateur honours.

Thorbjornsen has also made four cuts on the PGA Tour, with a fourth-place finish at the 2022 Travelers Championship a highlight.

Sam Bennett (2022) and Ludvig Aberg (2023) were the first two players to earn the PGA Tour University exemption into the event. Since their starts, Bennett went on to win the 2022 U.S. Amateur and finished T16 at last year's Masters Tournament, while Aberg earned maiden victories on the DP World Tour and PGA TOUR, and also made his Ryder Cup debut at Marco Simone.

Tournament Winners:

It was won in 2016 by Danny Willett, in 2017 by Sergio Garcia, in 2018 by Li Haotong, in 2019 by Bryson DeChambeau, in 2020 by Lucas Herbert, in 2021 by Paul Casey, in 2022 by Viktor Hovland and in 2023 by Rory McIlroy.

The Course:

Emirates Golf Club is a spectacular par 72 measuring 7,428 yards. The front nine is a par 35 and the back nine, featuring three great par fives, is a par 37. Designed by Karl Litten, it was built in 1988. It was quite literally carved out of the desert and features many waste areas, palm trees, bunkers, water hazards and large putting surfaces. The fairways are pretty generous but miss them at your peril. 

Form Guide:

Rory McIlroy will obviously start as favourite and it is hard to bet against him. He loves this part of the world and his rich vein of form shows no signs of coming to an end anytime soon.

To Win:

Rory McIlroy. Loves Dubai

Each Way:

Tyrrell Hatton. Incredibly consistent

Each Way:

Cameron Young. Ready for that elusive first win

Five Players to Watch:

Rory McIlroy. Simply the best

Tyrrell Hatton. Hugely entertaining

Cameron Young. Gifted American

Tommy Fleetwood. Always plays well in this part of the world

Brian Harman. Putting stroke to die for

Five Outsiders to Watch:

Marcel Siem. Playing some of the best golf of his life

Callum Shinkwin. Hits th ball a mile

Padraig Harrington. Still has plenty of game

Scott Jamieson. Looking for a stress-free season

Alex Fitzpatrick. Could turn out to be as good as his brother

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Tags: Golf Previews european tour dp world tour

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