Rich in heritage
The Omega Dubai Desert Classic was born in 1989 when the European Tour visited the Middle East for the first time.
The roll of honour includes 10 different Major Champions. They are: Seve Ballesteros (1992), Ernie Els (1994, 02, 05), Fred Couples (1995), José Maria Olazábal (1998), Mark O’Meara (2004), Tiger Woods (2006, 08), Rory McIlroy (2009, 15), Henrik Stenson (2007), Danny Willett (2016) and Sergio Garcia (2017). Between them they have won 35 Major Championships.
Promoted and organized by Golf in Dubai, the tournament is fondly referred to as the ‘Major of the Middle East,’ because of its longevity and a world-class field that it attracts every year.
Since 1989, the tournament has seen 24 different winners from 13 different nations. The 29th edition of the tournament in 2018 saw China’s Haotong Li become the first Asian winner of the event. His record 23-under-par score beat the previous lowest 72-hole score by one shot.
With elevated ranking points available and one of the most lucrative prize funds on the Race to Dubai, the $3 million Omega Dubai Desert Classic attracts an elite group of golfers every year.
Averaging 299 Strength of Field points in the Official World Golf Rankings over the last three years, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic is one of top regular season events on the Race to Dubai.
South African great Els has played 16 times on the Majlis course. In that time he has recorded three victories, nine top threes. Of his 58 rounds on the Majlis course he is a total of 188 under par. Els set the current course record of 61 (-11) on the opening day in 1994, which contained a European Tour record of 12 birdies in a single round.
Rory McIlroy, who was forced to pull out in 2017 because of a rib injury, is now 118 under par for his last eight appearances on the Majlis course that have yielded a first in 2009, sixth in 2010, tenth in 2011, fifth in 2012, ninth in 2014, first in 2015, sixth in 2016 and second in 2018.
At 19 years and 273 days, McIlroy became the youngest winner of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic 2009, beating the previous record of England’s David Howell, who had won the 1999 edition when he was 23 years and 236 days old.
Since making his first visit to Dubai in 2001, Woods has won the tournament twice. He is 87-under-par for the 29 rounds that he has played on the Majlis course. The former world number one was forced to pull out in 2017 because of a back problem just before the start of his second round.
1989 – MAKING A MARK
The Dubai Desert Classic becomes the first tournament in the European Tour’s history to be played in the Middle East or Asia. Mark James walks into the history books, becoming the first golfer to inscribe his name on the trophy.
1990 – ACE IN THE PARK
Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez records the first hole-in-one in the tournament’s history, holing out on the 4th but Ireland’s Eamonn Darcy lands the overall honours with a 4-shot victory.
1992 – SEVE MAGIC
The great Seve Ballesteros is two off pace with six to play on the final day, single putts each of the remaining holes to force a play-off with playing partner Ronan Rafferty, which he wins thanks to a 15-foot birdie on the second play-off hole.
1993 – WAYNE’S WORLD
South Africa’s Wayne Westner becomes the first non-European winner and posts his first European Tour win, seeing off a determined challenge from compatriot Retief Goosen and defending champion Seve Ballesteros.
1994 – COURSE RECORD
Ernie Els shoots a sizzling 11-under 61 in the first round, highlighted by 12 birdies and just 21 putts, en route to his first European Tour success. This course record still stands, 20 years on. The affable South African since progressed to become the only three-time winner of the event.
1995 – CLASSIC COUPLES
Fred Couples becomes the first American to win in Dubai. Stunning approach shots to set up tap-in birdies on the 9th and 12th highlight his victory after he missed the cut the previous year.
1996 – MONTY MIRACLE
Colin Montgomerie secures victory thanks to his European Tour ‘Shot of the Year’ – a 265-yard driver off the fairway on the closing hole, setting up a two-putt birdie and a place on the roll of honour.
1997 – GREEN GIANT
Richard Green beats two greats – Greg Norman and Ian Woosnam – in a play-off to become the first ‘lefty’ to land the title.
1998 – COURAGEOUS OLLY
Suffering from pharyngitis, Jose Maria Olazabal survived on yoghurt and fruit juice, but this failed to prevent the courageous Spaniard from going the full distance. Three off the pace going into the final round, Olazabal closes with a 69 to hold off Stephen Allan, Ernie Els and overnight leader Robert Karlsson.
1999 – HOWELL ON A HIGH
The change of tournament venue to Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club produces a win for David Howell as he holds his nerve to win by a four from a surging Lee Westwood.
2000 – COCERES WINDFALL
Jose Coceres of Argentina, who won $50,000 for his hole-in-one in 1992, lands the big one with a two-shot win.
2001 – BJORN TO WIN
With a return to its original home, Thomas Bjorn displays a granite resolve to complement his huge talent to beat the world No 1. Plays all four days in the company of Tiger Woods who debuts in the Middle East. Bjorn’s 22-under par total is still a record – held jointly with Stephen Gallacher (2013) and Rory McIlroy (2015).
2002 – WHO ELS!
Ernie Els goes one better than Montgomerie’s 1996 Miracle Shot when he blasts a four-iron through the trees on the 18th hole on the second day to 30 feet. The resulting eagle sets the tone for the weekend and a four-shot win, his second in Dubai.
2003 – DUTCH DELIGHT
Ernie Els almost makes the first successful defence in tournament history but can’t get up and down on the last, handing the title to Robert-Jan Derksen, who is almost 600 places behind him in world rankings.
2004 – AGELESS
Tiger Woods returns, but it is his friend and mentor Mark O’Meara, who seals victory thanks to a stunning wedge to eight feet on the closing hole. Becomes the oldest champion at age 47.
2005 – ELS’ EAGLE
Ernie Els overturns a one-shot deficit on the final hole, rolling in a 20-foot eagle putt to edge out Stephen Dodd and Miguel Angel Jimenez for his third win in Dubai.
2006 – TIGER TIME
The inevitable finally happens with Tiger Woods inscribing his name on the trophy at his third attempt. Two behind with two to play, he drives the 17th for birdie and picks up another shot on the 18th to force a play-off with Ernie Els where a par is enough to claim victory.
2007 – SWEDE SUCCESS
Playing all four rounds in the company of three-time champion, Ernie Els, Dubai resident Henrik Stenson birdies the final hole to edge out his celebrated playing partner and pre- tournament favourite Tiger Woods.
2008 – STUNNING COMEBACK
Five shots adrift going to the back nine, Tiger Woods produces an amazing birdie blitz and seals the title when he converts a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
2009 – RORY GLORY
Rory McIlroy records his first European Tour victory and first win on a major tour, aged 19 years when he gets up and down from the greenside bunker on the closing hole for the par he needs to edge past Justin Rose.
2010 – NERVY FINISH
Evergreen Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez courageously edges out European No 1 Lee Westwood at the third play-off hole after the pair had topped the leaderboard at 11-under par, 1 shot clear of Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee.
2011 – ACES GALORE
The event, won by Alvaro Quiros, witnesses four holes-in-one, all in separate rounds, including one by the winner on the final day.
2012 – MORE SPANISH GLORY
A scintillating 63 in the opening round sets up victory for Rafa Cabrera Bello. Records the third consecutive Spanish win and fifth overall.
2013 – EAGLES FLY
Stephen Gallacher of Scotland holes his approach to the par-4 16th on the final day for his fifth eagle of the week to hold off Richard Sterne and win his second European Tour title after a nine-year wait.
2014 – SUCCESSFUL DEFENCE
After blowing a two-shot overnight lead, Scotland’s Gallacher made four birdies down the stretch en route to a 72 to finish 16 under and become the first player to successfully defend the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the event’s 25th anniversary.
2015 – ROARING FEAT
A good four shots ahead overnight, Rory McIlroy closed with a 70 to win his second Omega Dubai Desert Classic on 22-under 266 total that matched the lowest score in the history of the tournament, set by Stephen Gallacher in 2013 and Thomas Bjorn in 2001.
2016 – CLUTCH PUTT
England’s Danny Willett closes with a 69, highlighted by a pressure-packed 15-feet birdie putt on the closing hole, to finish 19-under par, winning his first Omega Dubai Desert Classic, one shot ahead of compatriot Andy Sullivan and playing partner Rafa Cabrera Bello.
2017 – SERGIO STORM
Sergio Garcia completes a wire-to-wire three-shot win over Open champion Henrik Stenson after a closing 69, becoming the sixth Spaniard to win the tournament which saw high winds gusting in excess of 60 kmph, force suspension of play on Friday after the tournament top-draws Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods (after round one) were forced to pull out through injury.
2018 – AN ASIAN FIRST
China’s Haotong Li birdied four of his last six holes to beat Rory McIlroy by one shot and become the fist Asian winner of the event with a record score of 23-under-par.