Our golf expert brings you his preview and predictions for this week's European Tour event, the Dubai Desert Classic in the United Arab Emirates.
- Golf expert Niall Lyons has seven tips for the Dubai Desert Classic.
- The Dubai Desert Classic will take place at the Emirates Golf Club, between Thursday the 28th January and Sunday 31st January.
- Last weeks Champion, Tyrell Hatton, is currently favourite to win with a best price of 7/1.
Dubai Desert Classic - Winner
The Majlis Course has long since been the home of this event and we have plenty of interesting talking points as we survey the market. The course isn't so demanding off the tee, certainly not as much as last week and probably more birdie opportunities await here. The wind looks sure to blow throughout the event and that is the most interesting aspect to this event. The winners and placers here have been a 'who's who' of Open and Links specialists. 2018 Champion Haotong Li finished 3rd on his first trip over the Open. 2017 Champion and runner up Garcia and Stenson have long been Open experts. McIlroy, Woods, Els and O'Meara are other winners here that have held the Claret Jug aloft. In 2013 and 2014 Stephen Gallacher went back to back here and one of his two other European Tour wins arrived at the Dunhill Links. It pays here to concentrate on this aspect here. The Portugal Open is another relevant link as well as the usual Desert from.
Tyrrell Hatton makes the trip once again and is a solid favourite having moved into the worlds top 5 after last weeks win in Abu Dhabi. He is probably next to Dustin Johnson as the second best player on the planet right now and he is more than capable of going to win again. He is coolness personified in the way that he has won these events in the last year or so. Plenty wobble under pressure, and many get the job done whilst not totally convincing. Hatton has reached a whole new level where he is comfortable in this position. His major efforts last year were disappointing but it was an unusual year. Maybe we will see better this term with a slightly more fluid year in prospect. As a betting prospect this week I'd rather steer clear. Going toe to toe with McIlroy could have taken a little bit out of him.
Matt Wallace at 25/1 (6 places)
I like two from towards the top of the market this week and I'll start with Matt Wallace. The Englishman has ramped up his game lately and looks determined to get a spot in the Ryder Cup Team. There have been highs and lows in recent months. The big low was going out with the lead on Sunday in Scotland in October. He had a terrible start to that round hitting it absolutely everywhere. It was very nervy and he didn't look comfortable. Another chance passed him by in Dubai six weeks later finishing second to Antine Rozner. These two events were in lower grade company, especially towards the top at the weekend and you'd have expected him to come out on top on one of the occasions. Nevertheless his form has been solid and a 7th placed spot in Abu Dhabi last week was impressive among some very in form players. I think you'll find Wallace become remarkably consistent this year due to the Ryder Cup qualification. He thought he was hard done by last time not to be included so he will try everything this time around. His words on course last week sounded like a very focused character. His inclusion in the European Tour social media video last week was hopefully a sign of him taking himself a little less serious than what he has done in the past. He sounds a confident man these days and I don't think a win is far away.
2pts each-way M.Wallace 25/1 (1/5 6)
Dubai Desert Classic - Winner
Paul Casey at 25/1 (6 places)
Paul Casey is another who must be taken seriously. I thought he was a big enough number last week in the States and I narrowly left him off the staking plan. He finished in a tie for 8th on his first week back in a few months. He finished second in SG Tee To Green last week and if he can bring that same game he is a serious contender. He has been playing in elite company in all his recent starts and although there is a few heavy hitters towards the top of this market, on his day he is up there among them. He has a couple of top tens here but hasn't made the trip since he finished 9th in 2014. I think this course sets up very well for him and if he can arrive with his game in the same shape as California he must have a chance. I'd question whether Tommy Fleetwood would have performed much better than what Casey did last week and yet we see more than double the price about Casey who sits 8 places below Fleetwood in the World Rankings. Doesn't quite look right to me and I'm more than happy to bet Casey this week.
2pts each-way P.Casey 25/1 (1/5 6)
Dubai Desert Classic - Winner
Danny Willet at 55/1 (8 places)
I'll go with a trio of Englishmen this week with the third being Danny Willett. Willett's record here is fairly modest apart from his win in 2016 but he must like his chances of repeating that feat given a solid effort last week inside the top 20 in Abu Dhabi. He has shown a likeness for certain courses that he has repeated. 1st and 2nd in Crans. 1st, 3rd and 5th at Wentworth. 1st and 5th DP World Tour. Two top 6s' in Open Championships. He has yet to back up properly the win here five years ago but it may not be far away. 4th in the Rocket Mortgage in 2020 came off the back of three missed cuts. His Wentworth win came off the back of a missed cut. So form before last week isn't too much of a worry for me. Willett's Desert form is solid, with two wins in Dubai. Given the calibre of event he is capable of winning I think the 66/1 here is too big to pass up.
1.25pts each-way D.Willett 55/1 (1/5 8)
Matthias Schwab at 66/1 (6 Places)
Matthias Schwab has racked up a number of close finishes on tour in his career to date and maybe he will get over the line a shade sooner than expected. He has had a host of top finishes, including one on the pga tour at the Barracuda. He finished off 2020 in solid form with two top 20s in South Africa and looked like there was little rust on route to a top 25 finish last week in Abu Dhabi. He is certainly capable of giving the better players here a run for their money over the weekend. Weather he is ready to cross that line yet, well, only time will tell. He has enough talent to do so. He finished 23rd in this last year at his second look and can be expected to go better this time around. Overall, for all the talent he holds, the market may just not have a hold of him yet.
1pt each-way M.Schwab 66/1 (1/5 6)
Haotong Li at 125/1 (8 places)
I'll finish with a handful of outsiders. First of all I'm surprised at the price of Haotong Li. The Chinese star has a win and a 12th place here at the Emirates in four tries and at a track where course form translates an awful lot of the time he has got to be worth chancing. The reason why is he is 125/1 here this week is his recent form of course. He has shown no positive signs whatsoever. Four missed cuts from his last five events is horrid form. However, as I say, course form translates here. In 2019 he lay in second spot heading into the final day where a 73 shot him out of contention of going back to back. That 12th placed finish came after a missed cut the week before in Abu Dhabi. His win the previous year here came the week after a missed cut in Abu Dhabi. MC-57-MC came before a win in the China Open also. Therefore Haotong can overcome bad form in a flash and at an event where he has shone before a couple of times surely this 125s is worth chancing.
0.75pt each-way Haotong Li 125/1 (1/5 8)
Robert Rock at 250/1 (8 places)
Finally two small bets on two 250/1 shots. Robert Rock has shown glimpses of some past form in the last 12 months and is worth a pop at a big price. He has shown plenty of times before that he can mix it with the best on his day and although this is a tall order he is capable of a bold show. Five starts ago he was third in the Scottish Open and earlier in the year 4th at the British Masters. Length wise he can cope here as it doesn't overly stretch you and he has shown that before with a string of 3 top ten finishes through 2013-2015. As I say it's a tall order to do it in this company but if he finds that good form from last season coupled with some impressive course form here there is a chance he can figure.
0.5pt each-way R.Rock 250/1 (1/5 8)
Kiradech Aphibarnrat at 250/1 (7 places)
Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the same mould hasn't put his best foot forward of late but on his day is capable of bouncing back from some poor form. A four time winner on the tour he is sometimes too easily dismissed and it was only three starts ago he finished 11th in the Bermuda pga tour event. He has a host of links form which is a positive here as well as a runner up finish at the DP World Tour.
0.5pt each-way K.Aphibarnrat 250/1 (1/5 7)