Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Dubai Invitational Tips 2024

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The inaugural Dubai Invitational kicks off the DP World Tour’s 2024 campaign this week, with the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, Ras al Khaimah Championship, Bahrain Championship and Qatar Masters following on from this week’s event to complete an early-season Middle-East Swing.

With the Abu Dhabi Championship moving to November, next week’s tournament at the Emirates will be the first Rolex Series event of the season, however for now we ease ourselves into the action with a 60-man pro-am featuring an encouragingly strong field for a fixture with just $2.5m in the prize pot.

As you might expect with such a short field there’s no halfway cut for players to contend with, and with the amateur element concluding on Saturday it will be left for the professionals only to battle it out for the title on Sunday.

Having opted to miss the PGA Tour’s curtain-raiser in Hawaii so that he could focus on this week and next, Rory McIlroy takes a familiar position at the top of the market with 3/1 the best price on offer about the Northern Irishman at the time of writing. Tommy Fleetwood returns from The Sentry as the only attendee to have played competitive golf last week, and he rates a skinny 6/1. Nicolai Hojgaard, Adrian Meronk, Ryan Fox and Rasmus Hojgaard all follow in the betting at sub-20/1.

Before we go into more detail and my final Dubai Invitational 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 every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube, and our hugely popular, 6,200-strong private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

2024 Majors Competition Sponsored By bet365:

Following on from the success of the last 12 annual GBS Majors competitions, bet365 have kindly offered to sponsor the 2024 edition once again with a massive £250 CASH prize fund! Our 2024 winner will receive £150 (or currency equivalent) in cash with additional £75 and £25 prizes for 2nd and 3rd place finishers.

Basically we want you to pick a single player for each of the 4 Majors any time before the start of the 2024 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!

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Course Overview: Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, as its name not so subtly suggests, is situated alongside the Creek in Dubai and boasts a whole host of golfing, wellbeing and tourist facilities alongside a floodlit par-3 course, as well as a stunning 18-hole championship golf course which will be our focus for the 4 days of tournament play.

Originally designed by Emirates GC architect Karl Litten and opened as just the second golf course in Dubai back in 1993, the layout received an EGD/Thomas Bjorn-inspired revamp in 2004 which bar a few minor hole extensions is what we’ll see this week.

Measuring 7,059 yards from its tips for the par of 71, the layout is built around several artificial lakes as well as the Creek itself meaning that water is both in abundance here, featuring significantly on 11 holes, as well as presenting the professionals with the course’s biggest dangers.

Fairways are pristine and relatively narrow in the main, flanked sparsely by date and palm trees, giving the course a tropical, coastal vibe in contrast with Litten’s more familiar design at the Emirates which we’ll be visiting next week just a few miles away.

Three mid-length par-5s at the 4th, 10th and 13th of between 551 and 569 yards will present birdie and eagle opportunities to those players who can get into position from off the tee, as will the short par-4 3rd and 17th which will play as definite risk-reward holes if the tees are brought up a little.

Although this is the inaugural Dubai Invitational, Dubai Creek G&YC has seen professional action since its opening, having hosted the Dubai Desert Classic in 1999 and 2000 – more of which later – as well as a small number of Asian Tour, MENA Tour and amateur events.

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Dubai Invitational that will help to shape a view on players who may play well at this event.

As noted above, this is the inaugural event with some very patchy stats available from various tournaments held here, so course history needs to be considered accordingly: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Form/Course Stats.

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

Course Winners: 2017: MENA Tour, Mathiam Keyser (200 strokes, 3 rounds); 2016: MENA Tour, Rayhan Thomas (201, 3 rounds); 2000: Dubai Desert Classic, Jose Coceres (274, 4 rounds); 1999: Dubai Desert Classic, David Howell (275, 4 rounds); 1997: Asian Tour, Adrian Percey (272, 4 rounds); 1996: Asian Tour, Paul Friedlander (280, 4 rounds).  

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Dubai is here.

Clear and sunny conditions with temperatures peaking in the mid-70s Fahrenheit are expected. Light breezes of 5-10mph, peaking in the afternoons, should make the course play relatively scoreable.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Fortunately we do have some basic stats from the winners of the two Dubai Desert Classic events held here at Dubai Creek around the turn of the century:

  • 2000: Jose Coceres (-14); 264 yards (45th), 80.4% fairways (1st), 83.3% greens in regulation (2nd), 58.3% scrambling (11th), 1.73 putts per GIR (10th)
  • 1999: David Howell (-13); 256 yards (52nd), 76.8% fairways (13th), 73.6% greens in regulation (14th), 63.2% scrambling (5th), 1.65 putts per GIR (2nd)

Yes the stats are dated, however the challenge of Dubai Creek hasn’t changed dramatically despite the passing of more than two decades and the 2004 renovations, and there may just be enough clues in those two events to help us on our way.

A fresh-faced David Howell triumphed in 1999 at the age of just 23, displaying a strong all-round game into the bargain. With Lee Westwood runner-up and Colin Montgomerie also finishing inside the top 5, it’s no surprise that Driving Accuracy was the standout statistic that week, swiftly followed by GIR. What set Howell apart from the chasing pack was the putter; however in general a strong tee-to-green game was fundamental to get a player into a contending position.

Jose Coceres’ win the following year was driven by a field-leading 80.4% fairways found complimented by 83.3% GIR (2nd), and although windy conditions put more emphasis on scrambling that week, the basic premise of precision over power remains in my view.

The power (or lack of) point deserves to be laboured a little more I think before we move on. Technological improvements combined with improved athleticism in recent years explains the absolute differences in yardage stats, so the relatively short Driving Distance stats detailed above for the winners needs to be taken in context, however relative to the field both Howell and Coceres were towards the bottom of those who made the cut which suggests that precision is the key stat here.

In terms of par-5 scoring, which is often a stat which highlights the nature of a course, no player in either of the recorded renewals got beyond 10-under par for the long holes and Howell (-8 on the par 5s) and Coceres (-5) clearly did plenty of their best work on the other holes.

  • Jose Coceres: Par 3: -3; Par 4: -6; Par 5: -5; Birdies: 20; Bogeys/Worse: 5
  • David Howell: Par 3: -4; Par 4: -1; Par 5: -8; Eagles: 1; Birdies: 19; Bogeys/Worse: 7

Incoming Form: The 6 course winners all arrived from differing levels of activity and in some cases long breaks, played over a variety of Tours. Nevertheless, each of them had recorded a top 30 finish on their previous start:

  • 2017: Mathiam Keyser: MC/MC/5/7/WD/13/57/MC/47/15/16/28
  • 2016: Rayhan Thomas: MC/14/2/3
  • 2000: Jose Coceres: MC/8/MC/MC/MC/5/MC/55/15/8/30/10
  • 1999: David Howell: 37/MC/61/MC/MC/42/49/16/1/MC/49/27
  • 1997: Adrian Percey: MC/61/MC/29/9/39/2/MC/63/61/MC/22
  • 1996: Paul Friedlander: 15/MC/MC/46/24/50/19/45/41/29/13/15

The only one of the 6 players above to have played Dubai Creek competitively prior to their respective victory was Jose Coceres and he’d missed the cut badly the year before, so there may be little clues in that respect in an event where the vast majority of players are making their course debut.

As with The Sentry last week on the PGA Tour, we have the challenge of second-guessing how players will perform after a break, with some having played little or no competitive golf since the DP World Tour Championship. The short field and new course to many also adds complexity, however there are a few pointers we can take from the course and the previous events that have been played here in the past to give us an angle of attack.

A relatively short course which historically favoured precision over power will appeal to a certain type of player and although the short par-4s and par-5s will present scoring opportunities to the more aggressive types, the danger of a watery grave lurks on many holes.

My selections are as follows:

Rasmus Hojgaard 3pts EW 16/1 (5ew, 1/4) with Betfred

With Rory McIlroy choosing to start his 2024 campaign here in Dubai before defending at the Emirates next week, we have big decisions to make when it comes to siding for or against the Northern Irishman.

The 3/1 best price currently on offer about Rory will be enough to put many a punter off the OWGR number 2, however that doesn’t mean he won’t win here – wins last year alone at the Dubai Desert Classic and Scottish Open when he stepped down to DP World Tour level are testament to that – however there’s just enough doubt in my mind to leave him out this week.

Last year’s success at the Emirates was the first time in his career that McIlroy had won his opening event of the calendar year on his 19th attempt, as well as it being his first success in the month of January, and with fatherhood duties over Christmas as well as next week’s Rolex Series defence a bigger target, he could be excused for easing himself into things here this week. Of course that doesn’t mean that he can’t and won’t win, however at such a dog-awful price, I’ll be looking elsewhere.

Talking of horrible prices, the 6/1 about Tommy Fleetwood after his tailed-off 47th place finish at The Sentry is even less appealing, especially when you factor in the travel back from Hawaii and the time difference which will give the Englishman even less time to prepare here this week. Again, I can’t go near those odds.

The first player to appeal as I work down the bookies’ lists is Rasmus Hojgaard and I’m happy to support him this week. Of course his brother Nicolai proved victorious for us the last time the Tour visited this part of the world, however for me this shorter, more strategic test suits the slightly less gung-ho Rasmus better.

That success for Nicolai took him to within 1 trophy of his brother since the twins joined the professional ranks, so perhaps Rasmus will want to edge ahead once again as soon as possible before Nicolai heads back over to ply his trade on the PGA Tour this season. Strokes Gained: Sibling Rivalry perhaps, we shall see.

After a slack spell following his most recent victory which came on home soil at the Made in Himmerland, Rasmus picked up his form as the 2023 campaign came to a close with 4th at the Open de France, 6th at the Nedbank and 11th to complete his year at the Earth Course his highlights. Form in the UAE is also positive with 9th at the 2021 Dubai Desert Classic, 7th at the 2022 DP World Tour Championship and 6th at last year’s Ras al Khaimah Championship the standout performances.

With the pressure accompanying the latter end of 2023 to secure one of the 10 PGA Tour cards now completely lifted from his shoulders, seeing Rasmus free-roll to success here this week is a possibility. RESULT: T11

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Adrian Otaegui 1pt EW 45/1 (5ew, 1/4) with Betfred

If we can, or indeed should, infer anything from the events held here at Dubai Creek both before and after Thomas Bjorn’s tweaks it’s that accuracy from off the tee isn’t a bad asset to have.

David Howell hit more than three quarters of fairways when winning on this track pre-renovation and Jose Coceres led the field on that count when proving victorious twelve months later. Of course there’s been plenty of water under the bridge since then, however it’s that very same water which is very much in play here at Dubai Creek and siding with an accurate sort such as Adrian Otaegui might just produce dividends.

1st for Driving Accuracy on the 2023 DP World Tour from a huge 99 recorded rounds doesn’t tell a lie and the Spaniard is undoubtedly more adept at finding the straight and narrow than most, and in turn that should mean avoiding the worst of the trouble here this week.

Four times a winner on Tour now following his most recent victory which came by a massive six strokes at Valderrama in the autumn before last, the first two of those wins came in quirky events – namely the Paul Lawrie Match Play and the Belgian Knockout – so success at a no cut, limited field pro-am doesn’t feel out of line with his CV. The other win, at the 2020 Scottish Championship came at Fairmont St Andrews so that’s the coastal vibe box ticked also.

Otaegui’s best efforts in the second half of last season came at shorter, more strategic affairs at the ISPS World Invitational (4th) and Andalucia Masters (9th), and he rounded off his 2022/23 campaign with a creditable 18th at the Earth Course which doesn’t particularly play to his strengths. This week’s test, on the other hand, should be right up his alley. RESULT: T20

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Antoine Rozner 1pt EW 50/1 (5ew, 1/4) with bet365

Those punters who delved into the co-sanctioned post-DP World Tour Championship events that concluded the 2023 schedule may have been tempted to back Antoine Rozner at the Mauritius Open following a prominent performance at the DP World Tour Championship where he finished 11th, followed by a solid effort for 15th at Leopard Creek.

11-under through his first 14 holes in Mauritius catapulted the Frenchman into favouritism ahead of Louis Oosthuizen as a 59 looked a distinct possibility with 4 holes to play, one of which was a par 5. It wasn’t to be for Rozner as he finished the day at 10-under and faltered each day from there, perhaps after having let the prospect of carding that magical number on a par-72 disappear, however there was clearly enough positivity in that and his previous performances to suggest that he’s playing some decent golf.

Of course the benefit of having been active that late into December means that he should be far less rusty coming into this week and this short affair with a coastal vibe should suit the 30 year-old who did manage to get over the line on a course of similar dimensions and proximity to the coast at Mont Choisy in Mauritius the previous year.

Antoine’s other two DP World Tour victories also hold some relevance to this week’s task as they both came in the Middle East, firstly at the Earth Course’s sister track ‘Fire’ back in 2020, then at Doha for the Qatar Masters the following March. Both of those wins came off not dissimilar form lines and both came without any immediate competitive action the week before.

4th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and 3rd in Mauritius for SG Approach, notwithstanding the usual vagaries of data collection at the end of the year, is an eye-catching pair of statistics for a player who’s at his most dangerous when his iron-play is on song, and I think he should take to this week’s task very nicely indeed. RESULT: T32

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Ashun Wu 1pt EW 200/1 (5ew, 1/4) with bet365

Finally, at a somewhat disrespectful price, I’m also backing Ashun Wu.

Exactly how easy or tough this course will play remains to be seen, however if it is on the trickier side – and there’s enough of a hint from the limited events held here that it can present a challenge – then the Chinese star could well shine at long odds.

Birdie-fests aren’t really the 38 year-old’s forte as 4 wins at DP World Tour level of between 9- and 16- under demonstrate, however the very fact that he’s managed to get over the line on those occasions sets him apart from a number of his shorter-priced peers this week. The most recent of those successes was a 4-stroke romp at the 2022 Kenya Open where a 66/65 weekend left the rest of the field in his wake, and when everything clicks Wu is a very capable player.

Performances in the UAE have been sneakily good for Ashun, with his last 8 attempts all resulting in a paid weekend including best finishes of 6th and 9th at Karl Litten’s nearby design at the Emirates in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Success or failure this week may well depend on how well the driver behaves, however there’s hope that he can hit the ground running in 2024 having led the field for Driving Accuracy on his first 2023 start 12 months ago in Abu Dhabi. 20th place finishes both there and at the Emirates – both at Rolex Series level – further prove his ability in this part of the world and the shorter course here at Dubai Creek should also help his cause.

20th on his last start at Leopard Creek was a welcome return to form for Wu after a poor second half to 2023 blighted by a niggling injury, however after a month’s rest and recuperation and the lure of representing China in this year’s Olympics for the third time in succession if he can raise his game in 2024, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him outperform his odds here this week. RESULT: T48

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 14:25GMT 8.1.24 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.