Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Golf In Dubai Championship Tips

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The first part of our European Tour double-header – which starts on WEDNESDAY this week – takes us to the Fire Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, as players either attempt to qualify for next week’s DP World Tour Championship at the neighbouring Earth Course, or acclimatise if already qualified.

With the withdrawals of Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Lee Westwood from the early field, that’s left 3 players vying for favouritism at the top of the betting, namely Martin Kaymer, Robert Macintyre and the highest-ranked player in the field, Bernd Wiesberger. 12/1-14/1 is the reward generally for a successful punt on one of that trio, with the likes of Aaron Rai, Matt Wallace, Thomas Detry, Thomas Pieters, Andy Sullivan and Danny Willett offering more strength to the field at anything up to 25/1.

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Course Overview. The Fire Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates is described as the Earth Course’s sister, however in truth it my well prove to me more of a second cousin when we get to see it on Wednesday.

At 7,480 yards for its par of 72 and constructed in the desert, the fundamental building blocks for the Fire and Earth are the same and the grasses used for fairways and greens are reportedly shared between both tracks.

Fire though is designed to be easier and more suitable to the travelling golfer, and carries a handicap course rating of 110 against Earth’s 140. Aesthetically the grass around the holes is longer and wispier and coupled with its location on the edge of the Jumeirah Estate which is more exposed, the course almost has a links-like feel to it in places.

The par-5s are attackable albeit long, however the topography of the holes allows aggressive shots that will reward those brave enough to take them on. Two further short par-4s on the 1st and 16th holes will also encourage some of the longer hitters to see how close they can get to the green from off the tee.

Tournament Stats. As this is the inaugural – and perhaps only ever – Golf in Dubai Championship, this week’s stats consist of current form only: Current Form

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

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Dubai is here. Sunshine is expected with temperatures hitting around 80 Fahrenheit in the afternoons on each of the four competition days. Winds will be light for morning starters, picking up to around 10-12 mph later in the day, as is often the case around these parts.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

A new event on a new track gives us precious little to work with this week, and although part of the Jumeirah Golf Estate which will host the season’s finale on the now very familiar Earth Course, the Fire Course is described as sufficiently different to not consider results elsewhere on the estate as the be-all and end-all.

Pointers this week are mainly hypothetical, so those who are comfortable on the Bermuda greens and in the desert more generally may well adapt more readily to this fresh challenge. Aggressive par-5 play may well hold the key to this week, and with extensive bunkering on the course, those more adept at escaping from the sand may well keep their cards cleaner than most.

My final selections are as follows:

Matt Wallace 3pts EW 20/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

The market principals this week all have their merits: Robert Macintyre’s 6th place finish last week at Leopard Creek suggests that he’s not content to dine out on his breakthrough European Tour victory in Cyprus 3 weeks ago; Bernd Wiesberger’s 4th place at the RSM Classic at PGA Tour level on his last start is clearly more tangible form than most here can muster; and Martin Kaymer, with 4 top-10 finishes in his last 6 starts, is clearly very close to top gear and could well go into overdrive should he overcome the Sunday wobbles. Perhaps this week’s event finishing on a Saturday will provide the necessary tonic in that regard.

A case can be readily built for all 3 of those, as it could to a slightly less convincing degree for Thomas Detry, Thomas Pieters and Aaron Rai, however of the leading half-dozen or so I’m favouring Matt Wallace.

The big prize is clearly next week in terms of prize money and prestige, however at 50th in the Race to Dubai, the Englishman would need to go win-win to even get within a sniff of the leaders.

There is, however, a more immediate target for Wallace and that’s to cement his position in the OWGR top 50 with a win here this week. At 51st in the rankings as the penultimate week of the year begins in Europe, Matt knows that gaining entry into that elite club before year end is an absolute must if he’s going to get access to 2021’s biggest events as he attempts to qualify for the delayed Ryder Cup.

Results in recent weeks have kept him on the brink as he’s hopped either side of 50th place almost on a weekly basis. 30th at the Scottish Open and 24th at the BMW PGA Championship were useful warm-ups as he ventured back this side of the Atlantic and those outings almost reaped its rewards at Fairmont St Andrews where only the red-hot putter of Adrian Otaegui stopped the Hillingdon man from winning his 5th European Tour title.

46th at The Masters was a fair effort and his first weekend made at Augusta, and 37th at the RSM Classic promised much with the putter – potentially important coming to a week such as this where birdies are there to be made.

2nd at the Earth Course at the end of 2018 is undoubtedly form that can’t be ignored despite the differences in set-up between the two tracks, and 2nd again the following January at the Dubai Desert Classic shows a certain liking and aptitude for golf in the Gulf. He’s hinted on Social Media that his game is in a good spot right now and I think the desire to succeed this week and next will push him on to big things in the immediate future. RESULT: T2

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Alex Levy 1pt EW 55/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

As a big fan of Alex Levy, it’s been really encouraging to see him finally find some form in recent weeks.

With back issues and subsequent recuperation hampering his 2019 campaign, the 20 weeks off that the Frenchman was forced to take due to Covid lockdown appears to have done him the world of good. He’s now swinging as well and as freely as he has done in years, and that makes him a danger on a course that should reap a low score.

After some fairly innocuous efforts following the restart of professional golf, the Scottish Championship was the first real spark we saw in El Toro’s game, eventually finishing in a tie for 16th courtesy of a closing round of 66.

7th at the Cyprus Showdown followed a couple of starts later where his long game really shone, ranking 2nd for Driving Accuracy and 1st for GIR of those who made it through to the weekend. 6th last week at Leopard Creek was another fairly obvious sign that he was playing some nice golf and crucially that was on a tough setup that doesn’t necessarily play to his attacking strengths – this week should be far more to his liking in my view.

Since the start of 2018, the 30 year-old has finished 7th in Abu Dhabi, 4th at the Dubai Desert Classic, 4th in Oman and 5th at the Saudi International to more than hint that he’s comfortable in this part of the world and with 5 years experience of the Earth Course under his belt which he’s never quite mastered despite the odd good round, this week’s less demanding layout should suit him nicely. RESULT: MC

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Marcus Kinhult 1pt EW 80/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

While many of this week’s field have been jet-setting around South Africa over the past few weeks, Marcus Kinhult has kept his powder dry since narrowly missing the Saturday night cut at the Cyprus Showdown, despite producing rounds of 68/68/69 in that most brutal of formats.

A missed cut on the same track immediately preceded that effort, however prior to that we saw far more tangible form with 6th at the Scottish Open and 10th at the BMW PGA Championship, and on that evidence he’s got to have a chance this week.

The equation is quite simple for the Swede: at 61st in the Race to Dubai and a number of his closest-ranked peers also playing this week either here or in South Africa, this is the time to ensure a good enough performance and finish to guarantee a start on next week’s finale at the neighbouring course. 2nd at the Nedbank in the equivalent event in the schedule last year is encouraging and suggests he’s quite capable of raising his game before the final hurrah.

A cursory look at his performances in the Middle East shows a 4th at the Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge on the 2nd Tier back in 2016, where he led going into Sunday, as well as 16th at the Earth Course last year where he was 6th heading into the final day. 2nd at the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman in 2017 is another 2nd Tier pointer and he sat 6th heading into the weekend in Oman again on the main tour a year later. He was 8th at halfway at this year’s Saudi International and has finished 3rd and 7th from 3 attempts at the Qatar Masters on its 2 different venues. In summary, he seems really quite happy playing in this neck of the woods.

Game-wise, we’ve seen a field-leading putting performance at the Scottish Open and top-10 Accuracy and GIR rankings at Wentworth in recent outings to suggest that his game is in good shape overall, and with the hint of something linksy in places here this week from reports of the course, we only have to look at his success at Hillside last year for further justification. RESULT: T62

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 14:35GMT 30.11.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.