Dan Box
By Dan Box

This week marks the second successive Rolex Series event on the DP World Tour, which means a bigger purse, better field and more world ranking and Ryder Cup points for the players.

The Dubai Desert Classic is the event that started it all for professional golf in the Middle East, with this tournament first staged in 1989 and now celebrating it's 34th playing this week.

With the LIV Golf and DP World Tour court casing looming expect plenty of tension this week, particularly when you consider that LIV Golf's most vocal critic, Rory McIlroy, is in the field this week to make his first start of 2023.

Last Year

In 2022 Viktor Hovland won his first ever Rolex Series event by beating Richard Bland in a playoff - which feels like a lifetime ago when you consider everything that has happened since.

Rory McIlroy looked like he was joining them until he flailed a fairway wood into the water on the final hole, before missing a tricky par putt to miss out by one.

The likes of Tyrrell Hatton, Padraig Harrington, Adam Scott and Adrian Meronk all finished inside the top 10.

The Field

World Number One Rory McIlroy tops the field, with lots of talk over the last week or two about whether he should have been replaced by Jon Rahm at the top of the world rankings. It's hard to argue against this really, when you consider that Rahm has won four times in his last six events, while McIlroy hasn't played since the Tour Championship in November.

The fact that Rahm has only just moved into third place is a little hard to believe, although he is teeing it up at one of his favourite venues in the world (Torrey Pines) this week, so McIlroy may need a good result in Dubai if he is going to hold the Spaniard off the top spot.

A large number of players have stayed on after last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to play back-to-back events, which is hardly surprising considering the $9 million purse on offer, so expect to see the likes of Lowry, Fleetwood, Hatton and last week's winner Victor Perez.

Patrick Reed is among the LIV golfers in attendance, with the American already managing to cause controversy early in the week by throwing a tee in the direction of Rory McIlroy after being snubbed by the Northern Irishman. Yes, you really did just read that right...

The Course

This event has been held at the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club since it first began back in 1989, barring a brief switch to Dubai Creek in 1999 and 2000.

A typical desert course, the 7,428 yard par-72 yields plenty of chances for birdies although scoring and indeed the winning total can vary quite widely depending on wind conditions during the week.

The course is relatively wide but places a premium on driving the ball well, with two driveable par 4s and an 18th hole which is played over water and has led to some pretty memorable finishes over the years.

This year the course benefits from renovated greens which have made them a little bigger and provided more opportunity for pin positions, so that the tournament management can decide how hard or easy they'd like to set things up.

Golfalot Tips

Tyrrell Hatton @ 12/1

McIlroy is as low as 3/1 in some places which is quite frankly ridiculous considering it's his first start of the year, even if he is deservingly favourite, but there's just no value in that. Tyrrell Hatton looks a better bet this week, and although he didn't record a victory in 2022 he is still nailed on for a Ryder Cup spot. The Englishman came close at the Tour Championship and started strongly last week with a T7, whilst a T4 finish at this event last year suggests that it is a decent fit for his game.

Min Woo Lee @ 20/1

The big-hitting Australian has been in great form with five top-five finishes in his last eight events, including a tie for second last week in Abu Dhabi. His game looks ideally suited to this style of golf course and you feel like it is just a matter of time before he wins a big event.

Adrian Meronk @ 33/1

Meronk became the first Polish winner on the DP World Tour with victory at the Irish Open last year, before doubling his tally with a commanding 5-stroke win in Australia to cap off the best year of his career. He has worked his way into Ryder Cup contention, representing the winning Continental Europe team in the recent Hero Cup and finished T10 last week in Abu Dhabi.


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