23rd - 26th January
The Dubai Desert Classic is the second event of the 2020 Desert Swing on the European Tour. The tournament takes place at the Majlis Course at the Emirates Gold Club in Dubai, its traditional host venue. The course measures just over 7,300 yards and it opened in 1988.
10 holes feature water and the greens run at around 12 on the stimpmeter. The fairways are normally fast and bouncy but the rough is not normally too penal for players that fail to find the sort stuff. That means conditions suit players looking to go low, and winning scores of between –16 and –24 suggest the winner will have to be a birdie and eagle machine this week.
Recent results have also highlighted that many top-exponents of link golf do well here, with winner in the past decade including open winner Rory McIlroy. Sergo Garcia and Li Haotong have also finished runner-up in an Open Championship, whilst dual winner Stephen Gallagher has won the Dunhill Links Championship.
Admittedly, Bryson De Chambeau won the 2019 Dubai Desert Classic without showing much previous form on links courses, but he was in such good form coming into the tournament that he could have won anywhere. That’s not the case this time around for the American and it would be a surprise if he defended his title. But if you like backing last year’s winner to follow up, you can get 25/1.
The favourite for the 2020 Dubai Desert Classic is Tommy Fleetwood at around 7/1. He did well to finish tied-second in Abu Dhabi last week after a slow start but he’s yet to show the same high-level of form at this course as he has in Abu Dhabi. That doesn’t mean he can’t win, but this big tournament player may not be as motivated for this lesser event.
Louis Oosthuizen is vying for second favouritism with Matt Fitzpatrick and they also come into the event after top-five finishes last week. Oosthuizen has a couple of top-7 finishes in the event to his name but makes no appeal after missing his last two cuts here. Fitzpatrick appeals more, as he recorded a top-5 here three years ago. But he’s finished second six times since his last win and I can pass at 12/1.
Former Open Champion Henrik Stenson showed he’s no back number with a win in the Hero World Challenge in December and his excellent past form in this event means he’ll see this as a chance to earn some valuable Ryder Cup points. But I can’t see why he’s shorter in the market than Sergio Garcia.
Spaniard’s have won four of the last 10 editions of the Dubai Desert Classic, with Garcia’s win here in 2017 being the last of that quartet. He was only 32nd in 2018 but finished third again last year. He’ll have been a bit disappointed to have slipped into a tie for eighth last week in Abu Dhabi but looks a good each-way bet at around 20/1 to put his excellent tee-to-green skills to good effect here. That’s why Garcia is the first of our 2020 Dubai Desert Classic free golf tips.
Victor Perez was the opposite of Garcia last week in that he started slowly but finished well to finish in a tie for second place. What made the Frenchman’s achievements even more remarkable was he bogeyed his first three holes before bouncing back to shoot –17. He also won the 2019 Dunhill Links, whilst back-to-back top-5 finishes in big events last year suggests last week’s efforts may not have taken too much out of the 27-year-old. He was only 29th here last year, but had also been only 54th in Abu Dhabi the previous week. Perez is simply a player on a steep upward curve and the world number 41 looks too big this week at around 28/1.
Andy Sullivan shot four steady rounds in Abu Dhabi last week to continue his steady run of form and this shorter course should suit him better this week. He’s posted three top-6s here in the last five years and his two missed cuts in that period came when he was out of form. Sullivan may not quite match his three wins and Ryder Cup appearance from a few years ago but he looks sure to be more motivated this week than some of the more high-profile players. That make Sullivan the third and final of our three Dubai Desert Classic free tips.