The Earth Course in Dubai is a beast that no doubt requires a top class long game to feature on the leaderboard come Sunday evening. You will of course need to hole your fair share of putts, but if you can hit the ball long and hit long irons accurately into greens then you gain a significant advantage on the rest of the field. McIlroy and Stenson understandably head the market and it is hard to make a case for any other competitor in the field. These two stand out by a country mile when it comes to playing on the Earth Course.
Stenson has won this the last two years very impressively. The accuracy of his long game is streets ahead of everybody, even Rory. He has barely missed a green in regulation here in the last two years and if that trend continues he will be a difficult man to beat. However he is still winless this year and hasn't convinced me that he has hit top form. He gave the Tour Championship a right good fight against Jordan Spieth but ultimately couldn't cope up against the American's putter. After winning the Fedex back in 2013 he arrived here in the form of his life and we weighed in at a tasty 12/1. The 6/1 on offer for him this term therefore doesn't interest us as he is nowhere near that peak form he showed late 2013. I can understand bookies ducking his price as he has won here the last two years, but considering his winless year I don't fancy taking odds of 6/1.
Many consider Rory McIlroy (5/1) to have had a lacklustre year also. Yet he has won twice and posted seven other top 10s. Removing his three missed cuts he hasn't been outside of the top 30 in any event this year. His ability to get it round in decent scores while not playing to his best is better than ever. He arrived here early in preparation for this event and I just cannot see him out of the places this week. His six finishes here read 3rd, 5th, 11th, Win, 5th, 2nd.
Dubai is a second home to McIlroy with three of his wins coming in this country. He has won as many times here as he has in mainland Europe. Some places just set up perfectly for him, and this is one. The green surfaces are immaculate and he has produced some his best displays on these greens. The price of 5/1 is only fair, I'd have loved a shade bigger. But this is setup for Rory and I'll be amazed if he is unplaced. Possibly the best each-way bet of the year.
Justin Rose is very short in the market as he has posted two second-place finishes here in recent years, but I wasn't entirely convinced by his long game last week. Of the others, an in form Bjerregard could take to the layout, but outside of these guys I've mentioned I can't see the title going anywhere else.