Danny Willett defends Dubai Desert Classic

Willett, Stenson and Garcia are among those teeing it up at The Emirates

Danny Willett defends Dubai Desert Classic
Danny Willett defends Dubai Desert Classic
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s the final leg of the European Tour’s “Desert Swing” this week as Masters champion Danny Willett defends the Omega Dubai Desert Classic against a strong field featuring Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.

There’s a strong field in Dubai this week for the famous Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Masters champion Danny Willett will be hoping to defend his title but the Englishman will face stiff competition from the likes of Open champ Henrik Stenson, Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello and the winners of the events held over the last two weeks in Abu Dhabi and Qatar – Tommy Fleetwood and Jeunghun Wang.

This will be the 28th running of the Dubai Desert Classic. The history of the event goes back to 1986 when His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum approved the construction of a golf course in the desert. The Emirates Club opened two years later and the next season Mark James was winner of the inaugural Karl Litten Desert Classic (the competition was originally named after the designer of the course.)

Since then, there have been some great champions. Seve Ballesteros, Ernie Els, Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have all lifted the trophy. Last year Danny Willett birdied the final hole to finish one clear of Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Andy Sullivan.

The Majlis Course at the Emirates Club was the first all-grass layout in the Gulf and it’s still recognised as one of the finest tracks in the Middle East. Travelling through the desert dunes, fairways pass seven lakes, desert areas, indigenous flora and the “Majlis” themselves. Arabic for meeting place, these tent-like structures are a distinctive feature sitting between the 8th and 9th holes.

Unusually for Dubai, the weather looks like being a little unsettled. There could be some strong winds to contend with.

Venue: Emirates GC, Dubai, United Arab Emirates Date: Feb 2-5 Course stats: par 72, 7,328 yards Purse: €2,400,000 Defending Champion: Danny Willett (-19)

TV Coverage: Thursday 2 – Sky Sports 4 from 4am Friday 3 – Sky Sports 4 from 7.30am Saturday 4 – Sky Sports 4 from 8.30am Sunday 5 – Sky Sports 4 from 8am

Player watch:

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – The Ryder Cup star was tied second in this event last year and he’s a past winner – he was champion in 2012. The Spaniard is on good form and has two top-10 finishes to his name already this season, including a tie for sixth last week.

Andy Sullivan – He was playing well in Qatar last week until a disappointing final round of 74. He was joint runner-up at The Emirates last year and was fourth the year before.

Thorbjorn Olesen – The talented Dane has been third, fifth and eighth in this event and has the talent to take victory.

Thorbjorn Olesen swing sequence:

Key hole: 9th. At 463 yards it’s one of the longest par-4s on the course. Add the complication of the water waiting all down the left side to an awkwardly shaped green and you have a real brute.

Skills required: Course management. There are a number of water hazards and bunkers to contend with as well as desert areas around the Majlis course. The winner will plot his way round employing a blend of power and accuracy.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?