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2021 European Tour: Omega Dubai Desert Classic

Tommy Fleetwood - European Tour - AVIA Dubai Championship

The Dubai Desert Classic was first staged in 1989 and was the first European Tour event to take place on the Arabian Peninsula. With Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas scuttling back to the States, Tyrell Hatton emerges as the strong favourite to win this week.

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2021 European Tour | Omega Dubai Desert Classic

The Majils Course, Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, UAE

Thursday 28 January – Sunday 31 January

The European Tour will move an hour up the Persian Golf Coast this week following last week’s blistering start to the year. Red-hot Tyrell Hatton exploited a faltering Rory McIlroy (starting his 2021 campaign in much the same way that we finished 2020). The confident Englishman has won back-to-back on tour before: he won the Dunhill Links Championship and Italian Open in successive weeks in 2017. Can anyone stop the Tyrell Hatton blitzkrieg this week?  

The 32nd renewal of this event will once again see the players descend on Emirates Golf Club. Aside from the 1999 and 2000 events, the Karl Litten designed Majils Course has hosted every Dubai Desert Classic since its inception. The Majils Course is a typically flat desert track with water on ten holes.  The course features tree-lined Bermuda fairways and quick Bermuda greens. The rough isn’t especially penal and length off the tee has been key in recent years. The exposed course plays much harder when the wind is up. To illustrate this point, Lucas Herbert won with a score of -9 last year. Those blustery conditions were in stark contrast to the previous year, with pre-event Bryson DeChamebeau winning with an outrageous -24. Early forecasts seem to suggest benign conditions. Additionally, always keep an eye out for links specialists in this event. The course will tend to play harder and faster as the week progresses.  

As I noted earlier, Tyrell Hatton will be the overwhelming favourite this week. Having said that, US PGA Champion Collin Morikawa has chosen to skip his home-state event – the Farmers Insurance Open- to take part in this Dubai Desert Classic. I assume that this was conditional on a fairly large appearance fee. Tommy Fleetwood will be looking to make amends this week after a poor final day cost him a shot at victory last week. Other players to look out for are the improving Matt Wallace and the ever-dangerous Matthew Fitzpatrick. Also, look out for dark-horse former champions such as Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia. And a sentimental shout-out has to go to Ernie Els. The Big Easy is a former three-time winner here as well as a three-time runner-up.

Past Winners

2020: Lucas Herbert (-9) *playoff

2019: Bryson DeChambeau (-24)

2018: Haotong Li (-23)

2017: Sergio Garcia (-19)

2016: Danny Willett (-19)

 

Outright Betting (To Win)
Tyrell Hatton (15/2)
Tommy Fleetwood (10/1)
Collin Morikawa (12/1)
Matthew Fitzpatrick (16/1)
Paul Casey (25/1)

 

Value Bets

 

Rafa Cabrera Bello

To Win (50/1), To Place (11/1)

It has got to be the elegant Cabrera-Bello for me. The Spaniard really struggled to carve out a name for himself on the hyper-competitive PGA Tour last year. You could visibly see his confidence had been shaken. But an excellent 4th place last week seems to indicate that he may have hit the reset button this year. He ranked inside the top 20 last week for SG: Putting, SG: Tee-to-Green and SG: Approach. He also possesses excellent course form. He won this event in 2012 and has two other top 10 finishes: he also has three other top 20’s. 50/1 looks a steal for a man of his pedigree.  

Aaron Rai

To Win (100/1), To Place (22/1)

These prices just seem absurd. 100/1 for man who has a 1st, 2nd and 3rd in his last seven starts. Rai was one of the premier golfers on the tour last autumn. He showed major links credentials by almost winning the Irish Open. He further enhanced his links prowess with victory in the Scottish Open (remember what I said about links golf and the Majils Course). Rai ended the season in fairly subdued fashion following an extended break. But he dusted off some of the cobwebs last week with a reasonable T25. He hasn’t got great form here, but his recent growth into a perennial leader-board presence makes him an entirely different proposition this week.  

The Man to Beat

 

Matt Wallace

To Win (25/1), To Place (11/2)

I know that a considerable number of punters are picking Hatton to double it up. But regardless of form, claiming back-to-back titles is never easy. Matt Wallace may well be the best candidate to prevent a Hatton double. The Englishman – in conjunction with new caddie Gareth Lord – seems to have adopted a far calmer approach to course management. He played solidly last week for a highly creditable 7th place finish. And let’s just take one look at that Dubai form. He has finished runner-up in all three European Tour events staged in Dubai: the Dubai Desert Classic, the DP World Tour Championship and the Golf in Dubai Championship. There will be added motivation for Wallace this season with the upcoming Ryder Cup: Wallace was desperately unlucky to miss out last time in Paris.  

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