Hero Dubai Desert Classic promises to live up to expectations

The event will celebrate its 34th year in the company of some of European golf's biggest names



Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is hoping to win his third Dubai Desert Classic title. — AP
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is hoping to win his third Dubai Desert Classic title. — AP
by

Leslie Wilson Jr

Published: Wed 25 Jan 2023, 9:30 PM

We have seen a lot of rainfall in Dubai over the last 24 hours and with it the obligatory questions and concerns, amongst other things.

But come rain or shine the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, the highly-anticipated first event of the DP World Tour’s Rolex Series, is all set for a ceremonial tee-off at the Emirates Golf Club on Thursday.

Boasting a bountiful purse of $9 million, the event will celebrate its 34th year in the company of some of European golf’s biggest names, including world No 1 Rory McIlroy, several Ryder Cup stars like Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, Francesco Molinari and a host of other big names among them past champions.

Leading the old guard is the venerable Englishman Lee Westwood, who comes in search of a maiden Classic victory, part-time Dubai residents Henrik Stenson (2007 winner) and Thomas Bjorn (2001), former champions Miguel Angel Jimenez (2010) and Stephen Gallacher (2013-2014) and dual Major winner Padraig Harrington.

So by the looks of things, McIlroy, who is bidding to win a record-equalling third Dallah Trophy on Sunday, has his work cut out as he looks to settle a score with the Majlis Course.

The Northern Irishman, who boasts seven top-10 finishes in his past nine appearances, bogeyed the final hole last year to eventually finish third behind Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who has not returned to defend his crown.

McIlroy sounded optimistic and enthused as he spoke of his prospects in Dubai.

“It's really nice to be back, I've had a lot of great memories here and success over the years at the Emirates,” said McIlroy, 33.

“But feel like I have a little bit of unfinished business with how the tournament ended for me last year here. Wasn't quite the way I wanted to finish it off.

“But you know, I went on from that week and played really well and had a great year. I’m ready to reset and try to start 2023 with renewed optimism and a sort of full tank and ready to go."

Local golf fans will remember when McIlroy first made his debut at the Emirates Golf Club, as a 16-year-old amateur in 2006 before he turned pro the following year.

However, he would return three years later, stronger, wiser, and with a golf bag full of tricks to score a one-shot victory over Justin Rose in the 2009 edition.

McIlroy needed to wait six years for his second Dubai success, a three-stroke victory over Sweden’s Alex Noren and now, eight years on, he bids to make history and join South African great Ernie Els as the only three-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Simon Corkill, Executive Tournament Director of Dubai Desert Classic, put into context McIlroy’s continuation to the status of the event.

“Since the first ball teed off more than three decades ago in 1989, the Dubai Desert Classic has gone from strength to strength, attracting a wide array of top golfers from around the world so to have Rory McIlroy confirm his participation exemplifies how highly regarded the tournament is," Corkill said.

“He is one of the greatest names not just in golf but also in sport in general. This is a fantastic opportunity for fans to see the world number one in action on the Majlis course, a place he knows very well, in what will be another important year for him."

While all eyes will be on McIlroy as he bids to meet his golfing destiny in Dubai this week, nothing can be taken for granted given the presence of high-calibre golfers like Fleetwood, who appears to be back to his best, putting specialist Adrian Meronk and Shane Lowry, who always appear to save his best for Dubai.

Speaking about the challenge that he expects to face out on this golf course this week Fleetwood, a former World No 1, said: “I think the last two or three years, the main thing has been the firmness of the greens, how they have set that up, and the rough. So you put those two together, it makes it a very different challenge.

“I've loved that it's not directly in front of you (the golf course), there are doglegs, there's cutting of the corners but you always get rewarded for good golf shots and I've always enjoyed this golf course and I think definitely the last two, three years, I prefer it playing like that.”

Fleetwood ended the 2022 season strongly, bagging his sixth DP World Tour title when defending his Nedbank Golf Challenge title in November. Fleetwood has also sampled success in this part of the world, posting two wins in Abu Dhabi.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Hero Dubai Desert Classic

Established: 1989

Course(s): Majlis, Emirates Golf Club

Par: 72

Length: 7,428 yards (6,792 m)

Tour: European Tour

Format: Stroke play

Prize fund: $9,000,000

When: January 26-30

How to get to the Emirates Golf Club?

As parking spaces are limited, the best option is to take the Dubai metro. The Al Khail Metro Station, is situated right at the entrance of the Emirates Golf Club.

Public access closed today

Due to the severe weather conditions, and with the safety of all in mind, the organisers have made the decision to close the tournament to the public on Thursday.

On Thursday, the Emirates Golf Club will be open only to the players, the caddies, officials and the media.

We look forward to welcoming everyone back on Friday 27th January.

Please ensure you are checking our official social channels @dubaidcgolf for the latest updates.

Hospitality tickets

For those who booked hospitality packages for Thursday 26th, please contact: hospitality@dubaidesertclassic.com for a refund.


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