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‘The Volcano’ set for Omega Dubai Desert Classic debut

In-form American to join McIlroy and Garcia in a star-studded cast

DUBAI, Nov 8 — Flamboyant Pat Perez will join Rory McIlroy and defending champion Sergio Garica in headlining a top-class field that exudes the energy of a major when the Omega Dubai Desert Classic gets under way at Emirates Golf Club from January 25 to 28.

Tag-lined ‘Made for Greatness,’ the 29th edition of the longest-running European Tour in the region will also see Henrik Stenson, Matt Fitzpatrick and Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood, among other European Tour top-draws, further bolster a sizzling star-cast, promising a fascinating spectacle of golf at the famed Majlis course.

Potential storylines are a plenty, but none would be more compelling than ‘Volcano’ Perez who will be making his first appearance in the event. Riding high on confidence after picking up his third career PGA Tour victory at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, the 41-year-old American will hoping to keep the momentum rolling into Dubai.

Perez’s win, which earned him an automatic entry for next year’s Masters in April, took on a special significance at it came after a long recovery from a shoulder injury last year that threatened to wreck his career.

“It’s been an amazing 12 months. I can’t explain it, but I hope it continues,” said Perez, who also won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba on the PGA Tour in November last year. “I have always wanted to play the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. It looks incredible and I have heard it’s run amazingly well.”

Returning to the site of his first professional win on the European Tour will be Northern Irishman McIlroy, who will be aiming to match the feat of the great Ernie Els as the only three-time winner of the event.

McIlroy, who was forced to pull out of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year due to injury, enjoys an incredible record at the longest-running European Tour event in the region, going 96-under-par for his last seven appearances which resulted in two firsts and five top-10s.

Watched with great interest will be defending champion and Omega ambassador Garcia, who earlier this year became the second player after Englishman Danny Willett to win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and The Masters the same year.

Making his eighth appearance in Dubai last year, Garcia displayed imperious touch to rack up his 12th victory in his 250th European Tour event, becoming the sixth Spaniard to inscribe his name on the iconic Dallah. A successful defence of his crown will see the 37-year-old Spaniard become the second back-to-back winner of the ‘Major of the Middle East’ after Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, who achieved the feat in 2014.

Hoping to conjure up some old magic will be Ryder Cup legends Darren Clarke, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, Colin Montgomerie and Thomas Bjorn in a starting line-up that will also have a distinct MENA Tour flavour with the top three professionals on the Order of Merit, Jamie Elson, Henric Struhed and Luke Joy and the leading amateur Todd Clements joining the golfing elite in a reflection of the tour’s growing stature.

India’s Rayhan Thomas, who took the MENA Tour route to climb to number 35 in the world amateur ranking, has also been handed a special invite to hone his competitive edge as the 17-year-old Dubai-based prodigy continues to pursue excellence in golf.

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