Launched in 1989 as part of the Dubai Golf Programme, which aims to develop casual and professional golf in the area, this tournament became the first European Tour event to take place on the Arabian Peninsula. Added to the prestigious Rolex Series for the first time in 2022, the tournament invariably attracts a high-quality field. In the early years, this field quality was no doubt influenced by the “promotional fees” dished out to encourage the top players to attend. A number of all-time greats feature on the roll of honour, including Seve Ballesteros and Ernie Els, with “The Big Easy” winning in 1994, 2002, and 2005 to become the first three-time winner of the tournament.
The Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai provides the stage for the event, which usually takes place in January each year. Pretty long at 7,301 yards, the main challenges come from the tee, with the course featuring narrow ribbon fairways and numerous sand hazards. Whilst large and not unduly difficult to hit, the greens are notoriously quick and can be very tricky. Players who are accurate from the tee and excellent judges of pace on the greens ought to have a solid chance of success.
|2023||Emirates Golf Club||Rory McIlroy|
|2022||Emirates Golf Club||Viktor Hovland|
2023: Rory McIlroy
It was back in 2009 that Rory McIlroy claimed his first European Tour title with success in this tournament. A little over 13 years on, and the world number one once again showed his liking for the event – coming out on top on a thrilling final day to finish one shot clear of the field. Having also won here in 2015, McIlroy joined Ernie Els on three wins in the tournament.
This success also filled one of the few holes in the CV of the four-time Major winner, as it represents his first success in the prestigious Rolex Series. It was also the first time McIlroy won his first event of the season, and worryingly for the competition, he stated in the aftermath, “I feel like I've still got some stuff to work on”.
Following a solid opening couple of rounds, it was on Day Three that McIlroy grabbed the event by the scruff of the neck – posting a seven-under 65 to take a three-shot lead into the final round. McIlroy was always unlikely to relinquish that lead but was made to work by Patrick Reed, who posted a 65 of his own on Day 4 – briefly taking the lead, before birdieing the last to finish on 18 under par.
That left McIlroy needing to birdie the final two holes to claim the win and – whilst the 17th went smoothly enough – his tee shot from the 18th only narrowly avoided the water. However, one beautiful wedge shot and a 15ft putt later, and McIlroy had his hands on a 15th DP Tour title and $1.53 million in prize money.
Reed had to make do with second place, whilst third spot went to Australia’s Lucas Herbert who once again showed his liking for this course after having been victorious here in 2020.
2022: Viktor Hovland
When the European Tour introduced the Rolex Series they wanted a selection of world-class golfers to compete on excellent golf courses and provide thrilling finishes. There was, therefore, delight among everybody involved with the newly minted DP World Tour with the way that the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic unfolded. A final round packed full of twists and turns ended with Viktor Hovland taking another big step forward in his career with his biggest win to date.
Hovland looked like an unlikely winner on Sunday morning in Dubai. He was six shots off the lead held by Justin Harding but quickly set about reducing the deficit. A superb round of 66 saw the Norwegian set the clubhouse lead and the target that the likes of Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Erik van Rooyen had to chase. Of those three it was McIlroy who got closest but an errant approach shot from long distance on the par-five 18th hole that found the water meant he could not get the birdie he needed to make a playoff with Hovland.
Richard Bland was the only man who could tie with Hovland at the end of 72 holes. Unlike McIlroy, Bland did hole a big putt on the final green to reach a score of -12 but his challenge ended after just one extra hole, Hovland winning the title with a birdie.