Dubai Desert Classic: Five players to watch today

McIlroy's strong game off the tee makes him formidable on the course

By Joy Chakravarty

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Rory McIlroy (left) of Northern Ireland
Rory McIlroy (left) of Northern Ireland

Published: Fri 27 Jan 2023, 12:09 AM

RORY MCILROY

Country: Northern Ireland


Age: 33

World Ranking: 1


Best HDDC finish: Winner (2009, ’15)

Last five finish: 4-W (CJ Cup)-T4-4-T2

Just how comfortable does Rory McIlroy feel at the Majlis Course of Emirates Golf Club? The two-time champion won his first professional title here in 2009, and since then, he has not finished outside the top-10 in nine starts.

McIlroy’s strong game off the tee makes him formidable on the course, where he can reach each of the five par-5 greens with his second shots.

McIlroy will be eager to make up for his near miss last year, when he hit his second shot into the water on the 18th hole and wound up with a bogey when tied for the lead.

LUDVIG ABERG (AM)

Country: Sweden

Age: 23

World Ranking: 1 (Amateur)

Best HDDC finish: Debut

Last five finish: T33-T7-3-T5-T8

The tournament field not only boasts the No1 professional player in the world, but also the No1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). The Swede, a Senior at Texas Tech, earned his place in the tournament as the top-ranked player from the PGA Tour’s University Velocity Global ranking.

Winner of last year’s Ben Hogan Award as College Player of the Year, this will be his fourth appearance in a DP World Tour event.

Aberg, who is planning to turn pro the moment he finishes this year’s NCAA Championship, is impressive with his strong driving, and has a solid overall game.

MIN WOO LEE

Country: Australia

Age: 24

World Ranking: 50

Best HDDC finish: MC (2021)

Last five finish: T2-3-T4-T12-T8

Probably, one of the most promising players to have emerged from Down Under in recent times, Min Woo is playing in only his second Dubai Desert Classic. His debut appearance was one to forget, a missed cut with two rounds of 75, but he is enjoying a brilliant run of form and will be a huge factor this weekend.

The long-driving Aussie, younger brother of LPGA Tour superstars Minjee Lee, winner of the 2020 Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic, finished second recently in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where he was denied the honour by Victor Perez’s magical bunker shot on the 17th hole.

ROBERT MACINTYRE

Country: Scotland

Age: 26

World Ranking: 77

Best HDDC finish: 3rd (2021)

Last five finish: T20-T34-T32-T18-T9

The southpaw is one of the most exciting prospects in the game right now, even if the Scotsman has not been in winning form lately. However, he was steady in finishing 20th in Abu Dhabi, and impressed everyone at the Hero Cup the week before (where he won three points for Team Great Britain & Ireland in a losing cause against Continental Europe) with his impeccable putting and long game.

MacIntyre has a very good record at the Majlis course. He may have missed the cut last year, but was third in 2021, and tied eighth the year before.

Tyrrell Hatton

Country: England

Age 31

World Ranking: 5

Best HDDC finish: T8 (2016)

Last five finish: T7-T2-T13-T15-T7

Among the many proven players who have assembled at the Emirates Golf Club not realizing that they have a real battle on their hands given the rains that have lashed the course over the past 24 hours, is Europe’s Ryder Cup player Tyrrell Glen Hatton.

No relation to the former British champion boxer who shares the same surname, Hatton has been punching above his weight over the last couple of years on the tour.

And although he promised himself not to get overly angry, when making his New Year resolutions, the exciting 31-year-old from Buckinghamshire in England has forged an all-round game that carries a mean punch.


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