The European Tour really got underway last week. After a couple of lower level events, the big names were out in force for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Tommy Fleetwood proved that he is very much one of those big names by defending his title and the new world number 12 goes again this week in the Omega Dubai Duty Classic.
The tournament is once again being hosted by Emirates Golf Club and their Majlis course. Regarded as one of the best layouts in the area, it’s a 7,328 yard, par 72 which is exposed to the desert winds. While conditions do play their part, generally speaking this is a course that rewards the bigger hitters.
With only a handful of exceptions, driving distance is the stat that binds together Dubai Desert Classic winners. Power off the tee doesn’t only help in terms of reaching the par fives and having scoring chances on the long par fours, it’s compounded by relatively wide fairways and rough that’s anything but penal. The other stat to consider is greens in regulation. It’s been a common theme of recent winners and this year’s champion will likely be inside the top 10 for greens in regulation.
Garcia to Pip the Favourite
After an eye catching performance in his first event since returning from injury, Rory McIlroy has been installed as the bookies’ favourite in Dubai. The Northern Irishman looks to have put his injury problems behind him which is ominous for this week’s field given that he’s a two-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic. However, the value may well lie with the defending champion, Sergio Garcia at 9/1 with Betfred.
Garcia kicked off a brilliant 2017 with a win at Emirates Golf Club and he arrives in the Middle East 12 months on, on the back of a five stroke victory at the Singapore Open. The Spaniard is a proven danger to the field when playing in the wind, he’s got more than enough power for the challenge and has the mental strength to do everything that comes with being defending champion.
Fitzpatrick Close to a Top 10 Push
Matt Fitzpatrick was another player who caught the eye in Abu Dhabi. The 23-year-old finished in a tie for third with McIlroy suggesting that he’s in line for another quality year.
Beneath his unassuming demeanour, Fitzpatrick is a steely competitor who will do anything to win. To that end, he’s been working hard in the gym to improve his power and on the range to improve his accuracy off the tee. He believes that he can get more distance by hitting more fairways due to the roll produced by his relatively low ball flight. That flight and his power will help Fitzpatrick no end in Dubai this week as will his fifth place finish here 12 months ago. Fitzpatrick loves nothing more than proving himself against the biggest names in the game and, if things go well this year, he may well find himself inside the top world’s top 10. A win in Dubai would help that aim no end and at 20/1 with Coral, Fitzpatrick is set to at least challenge for a place.