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The DP World Tour remains in Dubai for another week for one of the season highlights. As a Rolex Series event, this is not only one of the best fields but also one of the largest purses. The list of past winners reads as a who’s who of European golf. It is often a marker of golfers we can expect big futures from. Included in that list is Rory McIlroy. I met a curly haired 16 year old amateur McIlroy here in 2006. He would achieve his first ever tournament win here in 2009 and has thrice lifted the famous coffee pot trophy. Emirates Golf Club was also my home course for the 8 years I lived in Dubai. Hopefully, that additional local experience helps our Dubai Desert Classic preview.

A very young DeepDiveGolf at the Dubai Desert Classic with Lee Westwood
A very young DeepDiveGolf with Lee Westwood at a coaching clinic 2007 Dubai Desert Classic

As frustrated as Rory will be after the inaugural Dubai Invitational, where he really should have won, it is perhaps easy to feel the same about our week. However, I feel quietly positive after the tournament. It was always going to be a tricky event to tip. Firstly, markets were dominated by McIlroy and eventual champion Tommy Fleetwood at very short single figure odds. Further, the golf course had not been used on tour for 24 years. It took some extensive diving into 1990s leaderboards!

I was pleased to see our extra deep-dive analysis proved true. We nailed the winning score, our course comps worked perfectly, and key metrics were spot on. Frustratingly, our three golfers named as last off the card all made the top 10 with Thriston Lawrence runner-up. Overall, I take it as a positive our analysis was so accurate. It bodes well entering our Dubai Desert Classic preview and the season as a whole.

Rory McIlroy is in the Dubai Desert Classic field in our preview

Emirates Golf Club Course Analysis

The Majilis course at Emirates Golf Club plays host to the Dubai Desert Classic, as we preview what to expect from the golf course this week. This venue has held the tournament since 1989, except for 1999 and 2000 when last week’s Dubai Invitational venue Dubai Creek hosted briefly. Whereas Dubai Creek is a short and narrow course, the Emirates is a long and expansive property. The Majilis course plays as a 7,428 yard par 72 and is one of the longest golf courses on the DP World Tour.

That provides the first clue of what is required for success here. A strong driver is well correlated to success here. Rory McIlroy is obviously one of the best in the business with that club. Bryson DeChambeau is a past champion with a record of 18-1-8 here. Other past champions Lucas Herbert and Viktor Hovland can send the ball out there, as can Sergio Garcia who is both long and straight with the driver.

Our second clue comes from approach play. Obviously, several of those already named are some of the best ball-strikers in the business. Names like Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, Tyrrell Hatton, and Ian Poulter add to that list. Putting also receives an uptick here compared to other golf courses.

The bulk of scoring will happen on the back 9. That features 3 par 5s and the par 4 17th which is drivable if you cut the corner. This culminates in dramatic final hole, with a carry over water required if going for the green in two. It always make for an exhilarating end of the round. Being able to draw the ball is a big positive, with majority of key holes playing right-to-left.

The 18th hole could decide the tournament for our Dubai Desert Classic preview
The 18th hole at Emirates Golf Club

Emirates Golf Club Comp Courses

Firstly, it pays to highlight in our Dubai Desert Classic preview that prior course form is vitally important. This is the most correlated golf course on the DP World Tour for prior form as a predictor to future success. We have seen a number of players become course specialists. Perhaps none more so than Stephen Gallacher. He held an insane record here of 10-2-1-1-3-MC-9 between 2011 and 2017. 20% of his career Top 5s came right here.

There has also been a link between the Majilis Course and Augusta National. Both Danny Willett and Sergio Gracia won The Masters they same year they lifted the Dubai Desert Classic trophy. Although the struggles of Rory at The Masters are well documented, part of the frustrations come from the fact he has also recorded 7 Top 10s.

Spaniards have always done well here. Golf on the Iberian Peninsula provides a good guide to Middle East golf. This is likely a combination of warmer weather, coastal winds, and the creativity required especially on approach. Garcia, Cabrera-Bello, Quiros, Jimenez, Olazabal, and Seve Ballesteros have all won here. The Seve factor often plays a part for Spanish golfers.

Neighbouring Jumeirah Golf Estates, host of the DP World Tour Championship, is a good guide. It ticks a driver friendly course with low scoring, comfortability in Dubai, and performance in a high class field featuring the best golfers of the year.

Eichenreid is notoriously a brutal driving course and has very strong links. Haotong Li, Hovland, Stenson, Els, Willett, Jimenez, Bjorn, and Montgomerie have all won at both golf courses. If we extend that to runner-ups, the list is even more extensive.

Dubai Desert Classic Weather Preview

It would be remiss to not speak about weather in any Dubai Desert Classic preview. The Middle Eastern tournaments are notorious for onshore breezes. With hot coastal locations like this, the land heats up throughout the day. As the land heats up, so does the air above it which then rises. This creates an area of low pressure, and see colder air from over the ocean rush onto land.

This used to be so predictable that I always tried to play the back 9 first if playing an afternoon tee-time. The winds would come in around 1pm, remaining for 3-4 hours before fading towards dusk. It meant avoiding a really tough stretch of holes from 6 to 9 into the wind. Winds have played a large part in many tournaments, none more so than in 2020 when wind specialist Lucas Herbert was victorious.

Currently, our premium modelling suggest winds look very high on the Wednesday but relatively calm during tournament play Thursday-Sunday. We will keep a sharp eye on this as the week develops, as any wave advantage here can often be very distinct and clear.

Make sure you check-in to our WinDaily Discord channel for the latest weather updates prior to tournament start.

Dubai Desert Classic Preview Golf Betting Tips

Thank you for reading my Dubai Desert Classic preview and deep-dive tournament analysis.
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