Niall Lyons gives his verdict on this week's European Tour fixture over in Dubai
Last week in Dubai was a blockbuster show and everything points towards another cracker this week at the Emirates GC with every bit as strong a field turning up for the 2018 renewal. It's not easy to pinpoint what facets of the game help you to score around here. Driving distance will never harm you but there has been a mixture of golfers win here down the years so it is difficult to rule anybody out. I'd favour the longer hitters slightly though. What is evident is that you need to make a ton of birdies around here.
Just like last week scoring conditions look set to be perfect for the most part and those who don't get off to a good start could be behind the eight ball from the starting pistol. A total of 7 winners of this event at this track have slipped on the green jacket at Augusta so long hitting, towering iron shots are certainly a pre-requisite for success here.
I have done an awful lot of soul searching to find reasons not to back the jolly this week and even though there are a few I will be parting with some cash. Let's start with any negatives. Rory McIlroy (best price 5/1), despite Fleetwood's absolute brilliance could have lifted the trophy last weekend if only for a poor driving day on Sunday. It left him with few chances to attack the flags and although he shaved the edge on plenty of putts, he was asking just a little too much of himself. It is almost like he has forgotten how to take an event by the scruff and put it to bed. He could be labelled a shade complacent at times. However, last week I didn't see that and I thought he looked a lot more relaxed. He was certainly enjoying his golf and maybe his caddy Harry Diamond has also now settled in and the two seem more comfortable on the course.
He was taking his good and bad breaks with good humour and altogether looked a lot more happy on the course than he has done over the last twelve months. A lot of people expect a good year from Rory and last week certainly showed his intentions.
Here at the Emirates he hasn't finished outside the top ten in his last seven appearances with two winners cheques amongst them. The Irishman loves Dubai and has accumulated a number of wins here now. The price of 5/1 is certainly right and I can't bleat about value. I understand it isn't to everyone's taste but I think if he goes well this week he will get the job done this time.
The golf produced by Fleetwood can't possibly be matched again and Pieters ultimately disappointed over the weekend. Fisher finds many ways not to win. His main rival Garcia is well travelled and having won last week rates a decent opponent. As does Stenson who played well on Sunday and talked about his game being in very good shape. All parts of McIlroy's game were in working order however and given the amount of birdies he has made here down the years I think he is the man to beat so I'm getting involved.
Two others interest me at bigger odds. I didn't quite expect to see Scott Hend (best price 175/1) priced so big after a rallying top 25 finish last week which included three 69's from Friday. He is four from six here with one top ten and another top 20. Overall he finds it quite hard to win but he hits the ball a mile and has had his fair share of success on tighter tracks also so overall he must be played at the odds. One to consider for the extra markets such as top 20 etc also.
Thomas Detry (best price 90/1) played impressive golf last week and there's no doubt this lad's talent could come home to roost at any point. He missed the cut on debut here but even McIlroy had a few missed cuts before getting over the line here. Sergio had missed the cut in 2015 prior to returning and winning last year. Detry has the talent to bounce back and the bookies continue to slightly underestimate his chances I think. He went well in Germany, another birdie fest, and last week so these types of tests certainly suit him.