Rising from the sands of the Dubai Desert stands the iconic Emirates GC where Rory McIlroy bids to successfully defend the title he won here twelve months ago. It is a traditional Dubai layout in terms of the test, especially on the greens where the surfaces remain the purest you'll find. This plays into McIlroys's hands as he loves these type of greens. There is desert out there to contend with, and anyone straying off line could find themselves with some interesting lies. Longer hitters do tend to play well here but plenty of the more accurate types have contended the finish over the weekend. It is tough to rule any type of golfer out, and any one of them who gets hot with the putter over the four days may find themselves with a good chance come Sunday evening.

McIlroy is the fav but I didn't expect him to be so short. To be honest I was looking to back him this week but come Sunday should he oblige I won't be losing any sleep over the 5/2 missed. He came up short once again in Abu Dhabi which is becoming a bit of a habit. I thought he would win there on the solid green surfaces. However, they turned out to be a shade more grainy than usual that week and that seemed to contribute to Rory's failings on the greens. He lost that tournament on days 2 and 3 where he couldn't hole a thing. His long game was exemplary but the putter was extremely cold. His long game deserted him a bit on Sunday but he said he was happy enough with his first outing of the season. Given his failings (if you can call them that) that week I can't justify a wager at 5/2.

A ruthless streak still has yet to be embodied by Rory although I certainly feel that this may be the season that he peaks at the right time for the first major of the year. For this week though, I'm more than happy to let him win unbacked at 5/2. With Rory almost certain to take up one of the places on the leaderboard I will be backing four of my five selections win only.

So we'll be looking elsewhere in our quest to find a potential winner should Rory not fire on all cylindrical shafts. We have four mid price runners, and one bigger priced lad who we'll be looking to take Rory on. We'll start with the ever improving Andy Sullivan. With three wins on his CV in 2015 Sullivan has certainly climbed the ranks quicker than everyone thought he would. In the 2015 season ending Tour Championship in Dubai he challenged McIlroy right until the death. He holed almost everything in sight before a couple of wayward drives eventually put him under a shade too much pressure.

It was the same story in Abu Dhabi a few weeks back. After opening with a pair of 67s he flunked the weekend with again his driving being the element of his game not up to scratch. The rough in Abu Dhabi was fierce and didn't play into Sullivan's hands. This week he will face little danger off the tee and will be able to open up his shoulders with the driver. He looks to be developing a real liking for these pure greens in this part of the world and he rates a very decent alternative to backing the jolly.
Andy Sullivan - 1pt @ 33/1Lost -1pt
With four top five finishes to his name around here Martin Kaymer is another string to add to our bow this week. He has been playing solid golf lately without contending. Obviously he has had his issues in closing events in recent years, but that has always been part of Kaymer's make-up. His length off the tee here will help a lot. He is another who loves pure greens. He loves to get the ball rolling on the surface and not bobbling. Taking McIlroy out of the equation Kaymer would have every chance. All that is missing is a win here and this could be the year he gets it. At 25/1 I'm more than happy to take the chance.
Martin Kaymer - 1pt @ 25/1Lost -1pt
Byeong Hun An is another who must be supported considering his form. Four top five finishes in his last seven starts on tour shows just how much this lad has come back to form over the last few months. Shanghai, Dubai, Turkey, Abu Dhabi and South Africa are all places he has traveled to lately and posted impressive results. His jaunt to the Asian Tour last week can be excused and although he must be tiring his results don't show that. Maybe his demise at the weekend on the Asian Tour is a sign he is fatigued but I'm prepared to take a chance on the Korean lad who is slowly gaining an appetite for these tests in this part of the world. Every department of his game is sound and we have to give him a serious chance of contending here.
Byeong Hun An - 1pt @ 28/1Lost -1pt
The final prong on our mid priced fork is Rafael Cabrera Bello. I dodge this lad almost every time he tees it up as he finds it very difficult to hole any putts worthy of note in the heat of battle. It is worth noting though that last week he finished 21st in putts per GIR. That is an improvement from Bello. Not only that, but his chipping / pitching game was in a lot better nick than usual. He came unstuck once on Sunday out of a greenside bunker, but even that was unlucky as he had connected well with the ball. That resulted in an unfortunate double bogey which eventually cost him the title. Also with the height he hits the ball off the tee he definitely suffered a bit with the wind. His length was a bit curtailed and the low piercing flight of Branden Grace was able to give him the edge. Overall I saw a lot of positives last week for Rafa and coming to a venue he has managed to get over the line at should give him the extra confidence needed to contend.
Rafael Cabrera Bello - 0.75pt e/w @ 33/1Placed 5.44pt
Finally we'll have a small each-way bet on Kiradech Aphibarnrat. This is a bit of a stab in the dark but compared to the likes of Noren, Ilonen and Donaldson etc who are half his price I see Kiradech as a risk worth chancing. Mainly because of his length off the tee and the potential to get away with the odd wayward drive. The Barnrat hasn't started the year particularly well but both events in Abu Dhabi and Qatar have had some significant challenges. This should be a lot easier and with this being his first trip to this event he might just take a liking to the course.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat - 0.5pt e/w @ 125/1Lost -1pt