Our tips for the 2013 edition of this event will be published on this page on the Tuesday before the event - bookmark this page and come back soon! Other Jan 2013 events: Volvo Golf Champions, Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship & Qatar Masters. In the meantime you can check out our stats pages for the Dubai Desert Classic in our stats section.
Another positive week in Qatar as we recorded our 4th outright winner in the last 9 events on the European Tour and over 130 points profit over that period from all European selections to boost our coffers. Paul Lawrie, like Alvaro Quiros in Dubai in December, proved that the 'obvious' choice is quite simply something you can't ignore sometimes - let's hope for more of the same this week!
The Dubai Desert Classic has always been the biggest of the Desert Swing events, however it's fair to say that the Abu Dhabi Championship has stolen its crown this year and the list of attendees is a slightly lower grade this year than normal. That said, we've still got Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer heading the field at short prices - the 4/1 about Rory to win here is particularly poor when you consider his win-to-event strike rate, although his chance here is beyond doubt. Also in attendance at the 7,301 yard par 72 Emirates Golf Club are a whole host of top players from the European Tour - for me, the more attractive option is to certainly be looking amongst these players for the eventual winner this week.
On to the business of picking a winner then. History has shown that hitting greens is the key statistic here - once on board, the putting surfaces are pretty flat and reasonably speedy Bermuda measuring 12.5 on the stimp. Length isn't a particular advantage here and many holes require a shaped shot to navigate around one of the numerous doglegs - shaping the ball both ways is a great asset to have here. It's worth noting that all winners in the last 8 years had recorded at least 1 top-10 finish in their previous 3 starts, so someone in good nick is required - this is not the kind of course to come to trying to find your game...
The long-range weather forecast suggests a breezy weekend with winds up to 25 mph after a relatively calm start on Thursday, so we may well see some significant changes to the leaderboard over the weekend and hopefully the full 4 days of action. Personally I'd favour proven ball-strikers, with the ability to shape shots and adjust to the wind as necessary, who are in good form both generally and with their irons, plus with recent success on Bermuda greens. My selections this week:
Thomas Bjorn is a frustrating player to back at the moment - leave him out of your selections at your peril! Aside from 2 mistakes in round 1 which cost the Dane a double and a triple bogey, he played some outstanding golf in Qatar although he still wouldn't likely have got close to Paul Lawrie even with a 4th day's play. His Thursday 79 was played in the worst of the weather, however that's no real excuse as many managed sub-par rounds playing at the same time and he's well equipped for those conditions - put simply he had a bad round...it happens to us all! To his credit he returned with rounds of 65 & 68 to finish in a tie for 25th and respectability, however of more importance to me is the strength of mind and desire to succeed that finish showed rather than throwing in the towel when so many others would have opted for the weekend off.
So, once again, Bjorn makes my team here. The course will suit his game as 5 top 20s in 11 starts suggests, plus he's got the memory of holding off Tiger Woods, when the former World Number 1 was very close to the peak of his powers back in 2001, on this course to fall back on. Once again the forecast of windy weather over the weekend should play into Bjorn's hands and he'll be keen to capitalise on his recent form with a big victory which will take him a step closer to Jose Maria Olazabel's Ryder Cup team. RESULT: T9
Once upon a time, winning consecutive events was reserved for Tiger Woods and seemingly nobody else...not any more. In my view there's a growing trend for players to win back-to-back tournaments and I've got no doubt that Paul Lawrie has that in his sights this week. Branden Grace has already achieved that feat in 2012, hot on the heels of Sergio Garcia's double back in October and Thomas Bjorn's wins in August/September - it certainly can be done!
By his own estimation, Lawrie is playing better golf now than when he won his Open back in 1999 - his price to win at Royal Lytham & St Annes has dropped from 125/1 to 50/1 in places in the last week - however his immediate objective is to keep playing at the kind of level that will see him win more events and help him move ever closer to a second Ryder Cup appearance in the autumn. In truth, this has never been the most successful of events for Lawrie, however with the bit between his teeth and conditions potentially playing to his strengths once again this week, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Lawrie win back-to-back events her in Dubai. RESULT: T51
Along with Paul Lawrie, Robert Rock has got to be the most in-form player in European golf at the present with a form line of 8/9/12/1 over his last 4 events stretching back to the Dubai World Championship in December. Like Lawrie, Rock is looking for a personal back-to-back double after his win in Abu Dhabi and it's difficult to leave him out of the reckoning this week on a course where he's top 20'd 2 out of the 3 times he's played.
Last year's maiden victory in Italy has given the 34 year-old from Staffordshire a massive boost of confidence and that can only have increased having successfully held off Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi - his game was unflappable under intense pressure and I wouldn't be surprised to see him cement himself in the upper echelons of the game over the next few years as a result. The first step is potentially this week where his strong GIR game will be rewarded with scoring opportunities and, crucially, fewer mistakes. RESULT: T51
The Welshman boasts an outstanding record at the Emirates Golf Club with 11 cuts made from his last 11 attempts, 8 top 20 finishes and 16 rounds in the 60s over that period on what is a tough course. He shot 64 to lead the field by 3 shots after day 1 back in 2004 and has managed scores of 65 and 66 (twice) in recent years to prove his liking for this layout, however frustratingly Dredge rarely gets the job done as just 2 wins from countless contending performances shows.
Dredge has shown glimpses of form recently without stringing 4 good rounds together - lots of 67/68s interspersed with 74s. Last week he got caught in the weather on Thursday before firing a second-round 68 and a 4-under final 9 to give himself some confidence coming into this week - combine confidence on a track he loves then we could see fireworks in round 1 with a perfect 8.30am tee time on Thursday. RESULT: T54
Lawrie (35/1), Bjorn (22/1) & Rock (45/1) paired with Molder (28/1), Sabbatini (40/1) & O'Hair (45/1)
Finally I'm going to invest my remaining 1.8 points in some each way doubles, taking my top 3 selections and pairing them with 3 fancies in the US at Pebble Beach. The last 2 weeks have seen some huge each way doubles landed in golf with one punter walking away with £87k from a Rock/Snedeker double, plus another pocketing £91k from a Lawrie/Stanley double last week (read Bet365's article here)- I fancy a bit of this action! RESULT: Lost
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 19:00GMT 7.2.12 but naturally subject to fluctuation.
To read our new stats pack for the Dubai Desert Classic click here: Dubai Desert Classic Stats Pack
Our tips, picks and predictions for the 2013 edition of this event will be published here on the Tuesday before the event - bookmark this page and come back soon!