The newly renamed DP World Tour returns to its European Tour roots this week with the 34th staging of the Dubai Desert Classic, the first of its now regular schedule of Middle East tournaments.
That 1989 event sparked what in many ways has become the cornerstone of the game’s second biggest Tour with five events now regularly held in this part of the world.
A who’s who of the game’s best have teed up at the Emirates Golf Club over the years (except in 1999 and 2000 when the event was played at the Dubai Creek and Yacht Club) and the honour roll includes everyone from Seve Ballesteros to Tiger Woods.
The tournament has become one of the must watch events of the new year and that will be the case again this year when an impressive field once again gathers.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Paul Casey notched one for the veterans when he captured his first title in two years at last year’s Dubai Desert Classic.
RIGHT: England's Paul Casey claimed his 15th European Tour title at this event in 2021. PHOTO: Warren Little/Getty Images.
A final round of two-under 70 was enough to see the then 43-year-old cruise to a 15th European Tour title and proved a springboard for a productive 2021.
Less pleased with his week was impressive Scottish left hander Robert MacIntyre who started the final round one back but slipped to a share of third with a disappointing 74.
COURSE: Like the city itself, the Majilis Course at Emirates Golf Club bears little resemblance to the layout that hosted the first Dubai Desert Classic more than 30 years ago.
Little remains untouched from what was laid out originally by architect Karl Litten in 1988 as the course and tournament have become almost synonymous.
A quintessential modern professional course, the Majilis features plenty of length (6,789 metres), deep rough, narrow fairways and fast greens.
The questions it asks are mostly of execution: can you hit the fairway and then can you hit the green. Deviate from the path and there will be a portion of a stroke lost.
While it presents a stern annual test for a field of this calibre, the winning score has been double digits under par every year since its inception, except 2020 when Lucas Herbert lifted the trophy at nine-under for the 72 holes.
The 428-metre 8th is the course’s best known and most visually striking hole, as much for the stunning city backdrop as the challenge presented.
A cape style hole working its way left to right around a sandy wasteland, expect to see many photos of this tee shot both in the lead up and during the tournament itself.
The final two holes are always intriguing here with the almost driveable, bunkerless par-4 17th followed by the par-5 18th featuring a water carry to find the double green.
Combined, there is plenty of opportunity for the lead to change hands in the closing stages which usually means an exciting finish.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The cliché suggests familiarity breed contempt but in the case of the Dubai Desert Classic it simply breeds more familiarity.
Like Augusta National and the Masters, there is a ‘horse for courses’ element to finding those likely to play well here.
It will come as no surprise that Rory Mcilroy is a two-time winner and has not finished outside the top-10 since his first victory in 2009.
His play in the final round at Yas Links last week hinted that he may have found something and he will rightly start near the top of the favourites list this week.
Many will also be picking young guns Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa and there is no reason either or both can’t contend but that is low hanging fruit.
For more value, look to 2012 champion and runner-up last week Rafa Cabrera Bello. The Spaniard has a chequered history at this tournament but three top-10s in eight starts and good recent form will work in his favour.
72-HOLE RECORD: 264 (-24, Bryson DeChambeau, 2019).
18-HOLE RECORD: 61 (-11, Ernie Els, 1994).
PREVIOUS AUSSIE WINNERS: Richard Green (1997) and Lucas Herbert (2020).
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Adam Scott, Scott Hend, Jason Scrivener, Wade Ormsby, Maverick Antcliff and Lucas Herbert.
Round 1: Thursday (Fox Sports 503 3pm – 8pm, 10.30pm – 12.30am)
Round 2: Friday (Fox Sports 503 6.30pm – 12.30am)
Round 3: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 7.30pm – 12.30am)
Round 4: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 7.30pm – 12am)
*AEDT, check local guides