Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Dubai Desert Classic Tips 2020

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It was ultimately a disappointing week in Abu Dhabi with our best chance Sergio Garcia unable to make a significant move over the weekend, having headed into the final 2 rounds in a tie for 4th position. A slither of a return from the extended each-way terms was all we had to show for his efforts, as Lee Westwood notched his 25th European Tour victory courtesy of a controlled performance both from tee-to-green and also on the putting surfaces.

With the Abu Dhabi Championship taking centre stage last week as the season’s opening Rolex Series event, this week’s field has understandably taken a slight step backwards. That said, the fast-finishing Tommy Fleetwood stays in the Middle East and headlines the field at around the 7/1 mark after his runner-up finish at the weekend. Compatriot Matt Fitzpatrick, who also finished 2nd behind Westwood in Abu Dhabi, rates as the second favourite at 11/1, with the in-form Louis Oosthuizen shortly behind the English pair.

As well as the leading trio already mentioned, there’s also the likes of Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Bernd Wiesberger, Shane Lowry and Bryson DeChambeau in attendance, as well as a strong contingent from the upper-end of the European Tour. This event still has some quality about it and we should expect some serious entertainment over the 4 days.

Before we go into more detail and my final Dubai Desert Classic tips, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as the golfing year kicks off. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Basically we want you to pick a single player for each of the 4 Majors any time before the start of the 2020 Masters and get those 4 names entered into the competition by one of the methods detailed on our rules page here. Best of luck all!

Dubai Desert Classic Tips – Featured Bookmaker: betfair

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Emirates GC. Designer: Litten, 1998; Course Type: Desert; Par: 72; Length: 7,353 yards; Water Hazards: 10; Fairways: Bermuda/Rye; Rough: Bermuda/Rye; Greens: Bermuda (TifEagle) 12’6″ on the stimp.

Course Overview. The Majlis Course is our venue once again for this year’s Dubai Desert Classic. As you’d expect with a desert course, this is a fairly exposed layout – however in contrast to last week’s course in Abu Dhabi, the track here at the Emirates Golf Club is shorter with a number of dog-leg holes which, when combined with wind which is quite often a factor, creates a little bit more of a strategic test.

History has shown that hitting greens is the key statistic at the 7,353 yard par-72 layout – once on board, the putting surfaces are pretty flat and reasonably speedy Bermuda measuring 12-13 on the stimpmeter, and they can appeal to the less adept putters on Tour.

The course is always presented in perfect condition and the greens are amongst the best on Tour. The back nine, whilst longer than the front nine, plays far easier with three mid-length par-5s in play, the short par-4 17th and the shortest of the par-3s at the 11th. The par-4 9th hole has been extended by 25 yards to make it tougher, measuring 488 yards on the card for this year.

dubai desert classic tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Dubai Desert Classic that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Current/Event Form.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Winners & Prices. 2019: Bryson DeChambeau, 10/1; 2018: Hao-tong Li, 110/1; 2017: Sergio Garcia, 20/1; 2016: Danny Willett, 40/1; 2015: Rory McIlroy 7/2; 2014: Stephen Gallacher, 45/1; 2013: Stephen Gallacher, 70/1; 2012: Rafael Cabrera-Bello, 125/1; 2011: Alvaro Quiros, 16/1; 2010: Miguel Angel Jimenez, 66/1.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Dubai is here. The tournament should enjoy mild (mid-70s) and dry conditions throughout the 4 days. Winds will be generally moderate throughout with afternoon breezes nudging 15mph before a slightly windier day on Sunday of 20-25mph.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Analysing the final stats of the past 10 winners gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2019: Bryson DeChambeau (-24). 298 yards (26th), 57.1% fairways (22nd), 80.6% greens in regulation (3rd), 57.1% scrambling (58th), 1.57 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2018: Hao-Tong Li (-23). 304 yards (18th), 50% fairways (45th), 65.3% greens in regulation (47th), 76% scrambling (13th), 1.49 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2017: Sergio Garcia (-19). 305 yards (4th), 69.6% fairways (4th), 81.9% greens in regulation (1st), 61.5% scrambling (15th), 1.70 putts per GIR (17th).
  • 2016: Danny Willett (-19). 297 yards (10th), 55.4% fairways (38th), 77.8% greens in regulation (19th), 56.3% scrambling (35th), 1.54 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2015: Rory McIlroy (-22). 318 yards (1st), 44.6% fairways (67th), 83.3% greens in regulation (5th), 83.63% scrambling (3rd), 1.68 putts per GIR (14th).
  • 2014: Stephen Gallacher (-16). 304 yards (5th), 50% fairways (55th), 76.4% greens in regulation (12th), 41.2% scrambling (65th), 1.66 putts per GIR (8th).
  • 2013: Stephen Gallacher (-22). 298 yards (5th), 58.9% fairways (34th), 77.8% greens in regulation (12th), 75% scrambling (18th), 1.61 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2012: Rafa Cabrera-Bello (-18). 289 yards (17th), 64.3% fairways (32nd), 84.7% greens in regulation (1st), 72.7% scrambling (5th), 1.74 putts per GIR (25th).
  • 2011: Alvaro Quiros (-11). 311 yards (1st), 48.2% fairways (49th), 72.2% greens in regulation (15th), 75% scrambling (2nd), 1.64 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2010: Miguel Angel Jimenez (-11). 286 yards (25th), 58.9% fairways (43rd), 75% greens in regulation (5th), 61.1% scrambling (20th), 1.69 putts per GIR (11th).

One element that stands out from a number of those players above is that they’d previously produced a strong GIR performance here at the Emirates before winning. Sadly no performance stats were recorded for Bryson DeChambeau’s debut effort in 2016 where he finished 18th, however prior to HaoTong Li’s win in 2018 the case was pretty compelling.

Although his attendance in this event has been patchy, Garcia had previously ranked 1st for GIR here in 2009; Willett had recorded 80.6% GIR on each of his previous 2 attempts before winning in 2016; McIlroy ranked 2nd, 5th ,6th and 4th for GIR here between 2009 and 2012; Gallacher ranked 1st for GIR the year before winning, plus had achieved GIR ranks of 9/6/8 before that; likewise both Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Miguel Angel Jimenez had ranked 1st for GIR on this layout prior to winning.

Hao-Tong Li’s effort goes against that trend as he’d only played here once before, recording a GIR ranking of 56th in the field, however we wasn’t a great deal better than that when victorious 2 years ago as it was his putter which did the damage. As ever, there’s always scope for an exception to the rule in this game.

Incoming Form: Each of the last 10 winners had recorded at least one top-10 finish in their previous 8 performances, so recent form was fairly strong. Rafael Cabrera-Bello’s form was probably the most tenuous of those listed, however he’d finished runner-up to Tom Lewis at the Portugal Masters before Christmas so was clearly in recent contending form:

  • 2019: Bryson DeChambeau: 51/13/30/MC/1/1/19/19/1/12/7/10
  • 2018: Hao-Tong Li: 3/MC/MC/25/62/48/50/66/4/13/19/MC
  • 2017: Sergio Garcia: 1/5/5/5/MC/8/24/47/17/9/19/11
  • 2016: Danny Willett: 1/17/54/3/52/46/11/3/28/4/4/54
  • 2015: Rory McIlroy: 14/1/1/1/22/5/8/2/2/2/15/2
  • 2014: Stephen Gallacher: MC/9/MC/3/53/63/25/34/38/29/8/28
  • 2013: Stephen Gallacher: 24/40/6/34/MC/5/6/MC/4/16/MC/59
  • 2012: Rafa Cabrera-Bello: 33/34/MC/30/2/41/19/72/15/26/48/35
  • 2011: Alvaro Quiros: 39/MC/42/34/5/57/55/53/3/23/8/2
  • 2010: Miguel Angel Jimenez: 6/36/4/67/36/10/53/45/18/9/MC/66

Event Form. Some semblance of course form looks like a positive factor here at the Emirates with last year’s winner Byson DeChambeau joining a long list of winners here who’d previously recorded a top-20 finish around these parts. Going back to 2005, the only exceptions to the rule are Rory McIlroy in 2009 and Haotong Li in 2018:

  • 2019: Bryson DeChambeau: 18
  • 2018: Hao-Tong Li: 39
  • 2017: Sergio Garcia: 31/MC/19/11/20/17/MC
  • 2016: Danny Willett: MC/48/33/MC/13/13
  • 2015: Rory McIlroy: MC/52/MC/1/6/10/5/9
  • 2014: Stephen Gallacher: 4/MC/38/34/51/22/44/44/MC/31/10/2/1
  • 2013: Stephen Gallacher: 4/MC/38/34/51/22/44/44/MC/31/10/2
  • 2012: Rafa Cabrera-Bello: MC/20
  • 2011: Alvaro Quiros: 59/MC/13/6
  • 2010: Miguel Angel Jimenez: 2/37/MC/8/46/38/MC/2/4/10/54/7

When the breeze picks up around these parts it can accentuate the requirement for shot-shaping and almost links-like qualities to a player’s game, an assertion that’s backed up when you look at the list of winners which includes a number of Open Champions including Mark O’Meara, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson. Even Hao-Tong Li has some Open Championship form having finished 3rd there in 2017 courtesy of a sparkling final round. This event also appears to be quite specialised with Els, McIlroy, Woods and Stephen Gallacher all winning this twice.

Conditions here are likely to shape the type of winner we see from year to year. When there’s any kind of breeze around these parts, the emphasis shifts towards ball-striking first and foremost, however in more placid years where scoring has been lower, those with a hot putter have also contended as we saw once again 12 months ago.

There’s a little more breeze in the forecast this week which might just shave a few shots of last year’s 24-under winning total, however the emphasis for me will still be on maximising and taking opportunities through high GIR and a strong enough putting performance on the week.

My final Dubai Desert Classic tips are as follows:

Sergio Garcia 2.5pts EW 20/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Having backed Lee Westwood on his 2 previous starts at Sun City and the Earth Course before inevitably leaving him out of the staking plan last week, I’m going to show some patience and stick with Sergio Garcia for a second consecutive outing.

Tommy Fleetwood’s flying final round in Abu Dhabi was reminiscent of his effort at the Earth Course in late November when he scythed his way through the field with a closing round of 65 to finish a shot shy of Jon Rahm; if he can keep himself a little more in touch this week then he could secure another win of course, however for such a skinny price his record here isn’t that great with a best of 6th and I’ll let him go this week.

Matt Fitzpatrick must be getting frustrated with his continued excellent all-round performances only producing runner-up finishes and again at the price I’ll leave him be and if he wins, he wins. Louis Oosthuizen is another who can often struggle to convert contending opportunities into victories and in that respect I’d rather side with Sergio who has 35 worldwide wins to his name and was one of the first to congratulate fellow 40-something Lee Westwood as he made his way to the scorer’s hut after completing his victory on Sunday.

The Spaniard’s switch away from Callaway equipment seemingly had no detrimental effect to his game in Abu Dhabi where it was mainly his judgment of pace on the greens that stopped him getting closer to the winning total after 4 rounds. With firmer, faster greens expected this week and having shook off the rust with 4 solid rounds to finish in a tie for 8th, I can see the 40 year-old pushing on this week on a course where he’s already tasted success in 2017 and came close again last year, ultimately finishing in a tie for 3rd behind the runaway leader Bryson DeChambeau.

In terms of raw credentials, Garcia ticks every box: he has the course form and current form that ties many of the previous winners here together, and 3 of his 10 visits to this track have produced field-leading GIR performances which again ties in with those who’ve tasted success here, including him of course. Although not a long course in comparison to Abu Dhabi, those players with the ability to attack the par-5s have often fared best here, and at -10 for the long holes last week only 1 player beat his total, plus he found 5 of the 16 par-5s in 2 shots on the week, which was the joint-best in the field.

A little more wind in the forecast this week can only help Sergio and whilst I don’t expect him to become the world’s best putter overnight, this event has often favoured ball-striking over flat stick performance which can only aid El Nino. Result: T23

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Paul Waring 1.5pts EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

In an event where ball-striking is the key constituent to a contending performance, taking one of the best exponents of that element of the game is never a bad place to start. 8th for GIR for the whole of the 2019 season tells us everything we need to know about Paul Waring and his fit for the Emirates Golf Club, and with his game in a great place right now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a second European Tour title come his way before too long.

You have to go all the way back to June of last year to find the last time that the Englishman failed to make the weekend; since then he’s recorded finishes of 7th at the Irish Open, 3rd at the Dunhill Links and 8th at the WGC HSBC Champions in strong company to suggest that his game is on a different level right now to that of previous years.

14th to close last year’s campaign at the Earth Course, where nobody in the field could beat his weekend performance of 134 (68/66), he picked up nicely once again last week in Abu Dhabi where a pair of 67s to finish meant a 12th place finish and plenty of momentum arriving here in Dubai where he finished in a tie for 3rd last year.

I mentioned in the Garcia commentary above that the Spaniard ranked 2nd in terms of par-5 scoring last week and that was to Waring, who also hit the exact same number of greens in two on the par-5s as Sergio. 3rd for SG Approach on the week was also impressive and the Birkenhead man arrives here at a career-best 66th in the OWGR and with a live chance of making the top-50 to secure a first Masters invite if he can keep his foot to the floor over the next few weeks. Result: MC

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Ross Fisher 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

In last week’s podcast, Steve Bamford highlighted Ross Fisher as one of his long-shot fancies for Abu Dhabi and the Englishman didn’t disappoint as he snuck into a tie for 6th place courtesy of an 11-under weekend that contained just a solitary bogey to accompany his 12 birdies. With his spirits high and his price still at a backable level, I’ll take a chance that the improvement we’ve seen of late will continue this week in Dubai.

Seemingly throughout 2019, Ross’s coach Denis Pugh regularly told viewers watching Sky Sports that his game was very close and it was only a matter of time before his typically outstanding ball-striking would be complimented by the kind of putting week that would see the Ascot man secure a long-awaited 6th European Tour title, having been winless since 2014. That’s a long time between drinks for a player of Ross’s quality and perhaps now he’s ready to put that right.

Since missing the cut at the Dunhill Links in late September, the 39 year-old has made 6 of 7 weekends, with best finishes of 10th at the Turkish Airlines Open and the aforementioned 6th last week in Abu Dhabi. GIR performances in that time have been typically strong – 1st in Italy, 5th in Portugal, 9th in Turkey and 10th last week the highlights – but it’s been brief flashes from his putter that gets him the nod here. 8th for putting average at the Spanish Open was his best flat stick performance since finishing runner-up in Abu Dhabi at the start of 2018, and there was more positivity last week as he ranked 18th for putts per GIR with a positive SG putting performance on the week.

12 attempts here at the Emirates GC have produced 8 finishes of 26th or better, included in which are 3 top-10 finishes. He’s finished inside the top-8 for GIR here on 5 occasions, the best of which was 2nd in 2015, and from tee to green he’s clearly got the measure of this track having finished 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th for Total Driving and 2nd on 3 occasions for Ball-Striking over the years. If the putter remains warm this week then Ross Fisher contends in my view. Result: MC

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Brandon Stone 1pt EW 150/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Finally, I backed Brandon Stone a fortnight ago at the South African Open largely down to the positive way that he’d ended 2019. After a slow start to last year and a mediocre middle part of the season, the Pretoria man didn’t want the season to end after finding some form that resulted in a tie for 2nd at the Portugal Masters in an event that he featured heavily throughout. 13th on his final start of the year in Mauritius also contained plenty of positives, with the 26 year-old putting his upturn in form down to a return back to his powerful draw shot-shape.

Of course, the best laid plans won’t always work and Stone promptly missed the cut at Randpark, much to his backers’ (and my) disappointment. Perhaps it was a little bit of rust, as after another lacklustre 2 days in Abu Dhabi last week that saw him scrape the cut on the number, the 3-time European Tour winner finally found his game over the weekend, shooting 66/69 to elevate himself up to 21st place overall.

11 birdies and an eagle over the weekend were fuelled largely by a long game performance that saw him rank 3rd for Total Driving and 2nd for Ball-Striking and that bodes well ahead of this week’s task in Dubai. 9-under for the par-5s over the course of the week was amongst the best performances on show and that should give him the confidence to go ahead and attack the long holes here this week at the Emirates.

3 of the South African’s 4 attempts at the Dubai Desert Classic have resulted in a weekend off, however let’s focus on the positive and in particular his 7th place finish here in 2017. He was impressive in all departments that week, ranking 3rd for Driving Accuracy, 8th for GIR, 3rd for Total Driving, 3rd for Ball-Striking and even top-20 for Putting Average on the week, so can clearly play the course.

When he’s on form, Stone is a match for anyone in this field, as we saw to devastating effect when he beat an excellent Scottish Open field by 4 strokes in 2018 courtesy of a closing round of 60. 20-under was the score that week, 1 short of his 21-under total when winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the back end of 2016, and given what we’ve seen in recent years that’s the kind of total he’s going to need to get to in order to contend this week. Result: MC

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