Desert Swings Winners
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The 2021 European Tour season began in January with the ‘Desert Swing’, three events being played in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

The Desert Swing Recap

Englishman Tyrrell Hatton claimed the first win of the ‘Swing’ in Abu Dhabi, Paul Casey won the Dubai Desert Classic and World Number One Dustin Johnson picked up his second Saudi International title.

So what did we learn from the opening three tournaments of the season and is there anything that we should be looking out for in 2021?

Abu Dhabi

Hatton started 2021 where he left off last year; competing for the biggest titles on the biggest stages.

The 29-year-old had a phenomenal season in 2020, winning the European Tour flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, as well as his first PGA Tour title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Tyrrell Hatton Abu Dhabi

Tyrrell Hatton Added a Fourth Rolex Series Win in Abu Dhabi (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Hatton dominated the competition, shooting rounds of 65, 68, 71 & 66 for an 18-under-par total and a four shot win.

What made this victory even more impressive is that Hatton was paired with Rory McIlroy on the final day and beat him by six shots.

The Englishman produced a blemish-free round and, in the process, overtook McIlroy in the World Rankings.

Hatton Jumped Above McIlroy World Rankings

Hatton Jumped Past McIlroy and Into a Career High of Fifth in the World Rankings. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

The victory showed what Hatton has in store for 2021, a year that sees four Major Championships and a certain Ryder Cup.


The Dubai Desert Classic was the second stop in the ‘Swing’ and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Englishman Paul Casey hadn’t won on the European Tour since the Porsche European Open in 2019.

But the drought would end when the 43-year-old posted rounds of 67, 70, 64 & 70 for a 17-under-par total and a four shot margin of victory.

The win was Casey’s 15th on the European Tour, making him the 18th player to achieve this feat. Victory also put him level on wins with both the former and current Ryder Cup Captains, Thomas Bjørn and Padraig Harrington.

Paul Casey Last Win European Open

Casey's Last Victory Came at the Porsche European Open (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

Harrington, the current Ryder Cup Captain, would have left Dubai feeling very happy as he finished in a tie for sixth, his best finish on the European Tour in over two and a half years.

The three-time Major champion would also have been happy about the European presence at the top of the leaderboard.

Casey, Robert MacIntyre, Laurie Canter, Bernd Wiesberger, Sergio Garcia, Rasmus Højgaard and Matthias Schwab all finished in the Top 10 in Dubai, with all seven players vying for a Ryder Cup place this year.

The Desert Classic showed just how much depth the European team has in experience and youth. It’s set to be an exciting run-in for the available Ryder Cup places.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudi International provided the finale of the ‘Desert Swing’ and also the strongest field we’ve seen so far in 2021.

Players like Dustin Johnson, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau made the trip over the pond to appear at the Royal Greens G&CC.

The Saudi International certainly delivered on drama, with the first two days of the competition providing an almost Open Championship feel as the morning starters on the first round received the best of the weather for the first two days. At one point there was even rain in the desert!

Dustin Johnson Saudi 2019

Johnson won the Saudi International in 2019. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

It would be World Number One Dustin Johnson who would claim the title, his second in three years in Saudi Arabia.

Four rounds in the 60’s gave the American a two-shot victory over Justin Rose and fellow countryman, Tony Finau.

What was incredibly frightening, was that Johnson didn’t even play his best golf in Saudi Arabia. On the Sunday he holed only two putts outside of five-feet in a two-under-par round.

With Johnson only displaying his B-game, it was the perfect opportunity for others to capitalise, but none of them could.

Finau came closest to challenging the World Number One but, yet again, he fell short; his ninth runner-up finish since his last victory in 2016.

Justin Rose Back to Form

Rose Produced His First Top 10 since the PGA Championship (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

A number of players would be happy with their weeks in Saudi Arabia though. Englishman Justin Rose returned to form with a T2 finish after a final round 65.

Victor Perez, Tyrrell Hatton and Viktor Hovland are all near certainties for the Ryder Cup this year after another strong showing in the desert put them all in the Top 10.

Final Thoughts 

The ‘Desert Swing’ treated us to some fantastic golf over the three-week period.

Going into the future, it is set up to be one of the most exciting seasons on the European Tour, with a number of players vying for debut Major wins and Ryder Cup appearances.

With a range of experience and youth competing for the accolades, one thing is for certain, we have a lot of great golf to look forward to over 2021.

Matt Cradock
Staff Writer

Matt joined Golf Monthly in February 2021 covering weekend news, before also transitioning to equipment and testing. After freelancing for Golf Monthly and The PGA for 18 months, he was offered a full-time position at the company in October 2022 and continues to cover weekend news and social media, as well as help look after Golf Monthly’s many buyers’ guides and equipment reviews.

Taking up the game when he was just seven years of age, Matt made it into his county squad just a year later and continues to play the game at a high standard, with a handicap of around 2-4. To date, his best round came in 2016, where he shot a six-under-par 66 having been seven-under through nine holes. He currently plays at Witney Lakes in Oxfordshire and his favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.

Matt’s current What’s In The Bag?

Driver: Honma TW747, 8.75°

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Rocketballz Stage 2, 15°, 19°

Hybrid: Adams Super Hybrid, 22°

Irons: Mizuno MP54, 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 Tour Satin, 50°, 56°, 60°

Putter: Cleveland TFI 2135 Satin Cero

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x