DUBAI, Jan 22 — Fresh off their brilliant victories last week, Sergio Garcia and Tommy Fleetwood will look to keep the momentum going when the European Tour rolls into the city for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic starting at Emirates Golf Club from Thursday.
Playing 5,892-km apart, the sizzling duo set the tone for the season with Masters winner and defending champion Garcia racking up an emphatic five-shot win at the Singapore Open and 2017 Race to Dubai winner Fleetwood carving out a dramatic two-shot victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The two will have their work cut out when they join a star-studded field headlined by 10 major winners and three Ryder Cup captains among other European Tour elites, including Ross Fisher, runner-up to Fleetwood last week, and seasoned campaigner Lee Westwood.
Coming off a three-month break from competitive golf as he recovered from a lingering rib injury, McIlroy showed no signs of rust, finishing a credible tied third last week and he will be a nailed-on favourite to match the great Ernie Els’ long-standing record of three wins at Emirates Golf Club.
With multiple players capable of erupting at different times, including ‘The Volcano’ Pat Perez, packing the field, the potential storylines are strong as ever, befitting the ‘Made for Greatness’ tagline of the tournament, now in its 29th year.
Having cracked the top 20 in the world for the first time in his career after his victory at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in October last year, Perez is determined to keep his resurgence steaming ahead on his debut at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
“I have always wanted to see Dubai because of how much it has grown over the years. I have just wanted to see what it looks like. And I have always wanted to play the tournament,” said the 41-year-old American, a self-confessed late-bloomer.
Plotting a way to regain their aura of old will be 2018 European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, Colin Montgomerie and colourful Miguel Angel Jimenez — all former winners of the iconic Dallah Trophy — as they will be joined an exciting crop of youngsters led by Matthew Fitzpatrick looking to match their success.
The tournament has a tradition of encouraging emerging talent and 2018 will be no exception. The top three MENA Tour professionals (Jamie Elson, Henric Sturehed and Luke Joy) along with the leading amateur (Todd Clements) have earned special invitations and they will be joined by Dubai-based Rayhan Thomas, the top ranked amateur in the region, and Moroccan ace Ahmed Marjan.
“All of them will relish the prospect of competing with the world’s best and measuring their skills against players of such proven quality as Garcia, McIlroy and Henrik Stenson,” as Peter Dawson, chairman of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic said.
Setting the mood for an action-packed week will be global superstar Niall Horan, who will be featuring in the Wednesday’s Pro Am alongside his good friend McIlroy in the afternoon shotgun.
The multiple-award winning performer caddied for McIlroy at the Par-3 Contest at the Augusta National in 2015, Niall, but it will be the first time he will be showing off his golfing skills in a curtain-raiser to a major European Tour event.
Meanwhile, a series of activities planned on and off the course will help keep the atmosphere buzzing, giving the event the energy of a Major.
The tournament will wear a ‘Pink’ look on Friday to create breast cancer awareness, especially amongst young people, with the aim of promoting healthy lifestyles in addition to supporting initiatives of Al Jalila Foundation Research Centre, the UAE’s first independent multi-disciplinary medical research centre.
Day tickets for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic are priced at Dh 175. A season pass, which provides access all week, is available for Dh 500. Under-16s gain free entry when accompanied by an adult who is holding a valid ticket. Visit www.omegadubaidesertclassic.com