Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Dubai Desert Classic Tips 2022

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Thomas Pieters proved triumphant in the end last week in Abu Dhabi with 40/1 available in places pre-event about the talented Belgian. Back inside the OWGR top 50 courtesy of his win, the 29 year-old’s first Rolex Series victory also brings up his personal half dozen wins at DP World Tour level from what is still a relatively short career.

Our 25/1 headline selection Shane Lowry was the favourite heading into the final day, but he limped home in 77 strokes to miss the each-way places altogether in a frustrating end to an otherwise enjoyable first look at Yas Links. Padraig Harrington double bogeyed the final hole when a birdie would have salvaged part of an each-way payout at 200/1 to rub a little extra salt into the wounds.

On to this week we go and the field if anything has strengthened ever so slightly with the Dubai Desert Classic, freshly sponsored by logistics software provider, gaining Rolex Series status for the first time in its history. That means 8,000 DPWTR points up for grabs alongside the elevated $8m prize find and as such our three headline acts from last week – Morikawa, McIlroy and Hovland – have all decided to stick around for another week’s golf.

Added to the field versus a week ago we have Sergio Garcia (22/1) and defending champion Paul Casey (25/1); combine that with what’s otherwise pretty much the same cast as last week below the headline names and we have another excellent quality event on our hands.

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 every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 6,000-strong private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Emirates GC. Designer: Litten, 1998; Course Type: Desert; Par: 72; Length: 7,424 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 first look at Yas Links in Abu Dhabi, the track here at the Emirates Golf Club is a little 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 7,424 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 1st, 3rd and 16th holes were extended prior to last year’s event, adding 67 yards to the total length.

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. 2021: Paul Casey, 25/1; 2020: Lucas Herbert, 200/1; 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.

For a summary of winners’ odds on the European Tour since 2010 click here.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Dubai is here. The tournament should enjoy mild (low-70s) and dry conditions throughout the 4 days. After a calm Thursday, the wind is forecast to pick up from Friday onwards with a steady 15-20mph breeze expected at times.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Analysing the final stats of the past 11 winners gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2021: Paul Casey (-17). 301 yards (23rd), 53.6% fairways (17th), 75.0% greens in regulation (4th), 66.7% scrambling (16th), 1.73 putts per GIR (22nd).
  • 2020: Lucas Herbert (-9). 316 yards (9th), 42.9% fairways (37th), 66.7% greens in regulation (5th), 70.8% scrambling (4th), 1.73 putts per GIR (21st).
  • 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.

Lucas Herbert was another case in point, having hit 75% GIR on his debut here in 2019, ranking 13th in the field on that count, before ranking 5th for the same metric on his way to victory in 2020. Similarly, last year’s winner Paul Casey had previous GIR rankings of 2nd, 4th, 5th and 9th and no worse than 24th in the field from 7 previous starts.

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 4 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.

Strokes Gained: From a Strokes Gained perspective, we have 3 years’ worth of results from the Emirates:

  • 2021: Paul Casey. T: 6th; A: 2nd; T2G: 1st; ATG: 7th; P: 41st
  • 2020: Lucas Herbert. T: 9th; A: 54th; T2G: 7th; ATG: 3rd; P: 14th
  • 2019: Bryson DeChambeau. T: 4th; A: 12th; T2G: 3rd; ATG: 32nd; P: 5th

Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.

Some consistency from all 3 winners from the Strokes Gained era with both Off the Tee and Tee to Green field rankings right up there with the best on the week.

Casey had given some clues having ranked 2nd for SG Tee to Green on the PGA Tour the previous week; Herbert was tougher to spot with some indifferent incoming form although his SG Off the Tee performances outshone his actual finishing positions, whereas Bryson DeChambeau had finished 2nd for both SG Off the Tee and SG Tee to Green on his previous start at the Sony Open.

For a full Strokes Gained summary for the field over the same 3 years click here.

Incoming Form: Each of the last 12 winners had recorded at least one top-10 finish in their previous 9 performances, so some recent form seems a fair pointer.

Last year’s winner Paul Casey shook the rust off on the PGA Tour’s The American Express event, finishing 4th after a slow start to eventually finish in a tie for 8th place. 2nd at the rearranged US PGA Championship in the previous autumn was some standout form in comparison to many of his peers 12 months ago:

  • 2021: Paul Casey: MC/67/2/31/49/16/17/MC/69/35/38/8
  • 2020: Lucas Herbert: 55/62/MC/8/22/MC/MC/34/14/MC/64/67
  • 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 Paul Casey 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:

  • 2021: Paul Casey: 12/16/20/4/11/37/9
  • 2020: Lucas Herbert: 7
  • 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

General experience of the Emirates looks positive too: there are no debutant winners in that list above and you need to go all the way back to Richard Green in 1997 before you’ll find a first-timer walking away with the trophy here. The occasional debutant has placed here in recent years – Laurie Canter finishing 4th last year for example – however they are the exception rather than the rule.

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.

2020’s winning total of 9-under was a combination of thicker rough and stronger winds than recent renewals, to emphasise that the course can present more of a challenge when conditions allow. The forecast this year looks fairly average with a little breeze after a placid opening day, although nothing to the degree to which we saw last week in Abu Dhabi.

My final Dubai Desert Classic tips are as follows:

Rory McIlroy 5pts win 15/2 with bet365

I’m not generally one for backing short-priced favourites, however once in a while there has to be an exception and this week I’m struggling to see why Rory McIlroy won’t win.

Plenty can go wrong in golf as we all know rather too well, however give the Northern Irishman a handful of attempts at this with his current shame of game and he wins at least once in my view, an assertion which can be backed up by his 2 wins from 11 starts here at the Emirates.

The differences between this week and last are significant enough to convince me to take the plunge here in Dubai, having swerved him this time last week. The Abu Dhabi Championship has been a source of frustration for Rory since day one, with 8 top-3 finishes to his name and no victory, and a windy links to shake the rust off was far from ideal.

To his credit, having made the cut on the number the 32 year-old went on to record the lowest aggregate final 36 holes in the field to finish in a tie for 12th; with conditions set to be a little easier this week, I suspect he can maintain that positive momentum. In interview McIlroy talked about a few tweaks he’d been making with some clubs that had cost him a few shots; I’m fully expecting those tweaks and changes to have been ironed out or dropped by the time we get to Thursday of this week.

Whereas Abu Dhabi has been somewhat of a Nemesis to Rory over the years, Dubai has been far kinder. This track was the scene of McIlroy’s first win on the European Tour as it was at the time, and he’s contended or won here pretty much every time that he’s returned since, including a 3-stroke win in 2015. Twice a winner at the Earth Course, Rory is right at home in these surroundings.

With his coaching staff rearranged at the back end of the year, victory at the CJ Cup on the PGA Tour was the reward for his decision and he led going into the final day at the Earth Course before falling back to 6th place on Sunday. Solid form nevertheless and after shaking the rust off last week and still ranking 7th for SG Off the Tee and 5th for SG Tee to Green despite nearly missing the cut, this week could well see a more positive outcome. RESULT: 3rd

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Dean Burmester 1pt EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Career wins number 8 and 9 came in a productive 2021 season for Dean Burmester and there’s little indication that he’s going to stop adding to the trophy cabinet any time soon.

Admittedly 8 of those 9 successes have come at Sunshine Tour or co-sanctioned level, however getting that winning feeling whatever the level is never a bad thing and he’s clearly becoming increasingly comfortable competing – and winning – at DP World Tour level. A 5-stroke win at the Tenerife Open last May, where he made 28 birdies and an eagle on the Bermuda TifEagle putting surfaces, is a case in point and in my view he has the game to regularly compete at a higher level.

4th at the SA Open before Christmas pushed the 32 year-old to a career-high 66th in the OWGR and tantalisingly close now to a top-50 position that would open doors to WGCs and Majors. Thomas Pieters made a similar jump last week with his victory in Abu Dhabi and the reward for success here is great for the Zimbabwe-born South African.

Golf in the UAE seems to suit Dean down to the ground: 7th in Abu Dhabi in 2017 on his debut in the region, Burmester has barely looked back with finishes of 4th (2017), 4th again (2018) and 6th (2021) at the DP World Tour Championship as well as 3rd here at the Emirates in 2020 where he ranked 6th for GIR.

That effort at the Earth Course in November caught the eye as he led the field for both SG Off the Tee and SG Tee to Green, and he proved it was no fluke by produced near identical numbers last week in Abu Dhabi on his way to 25th place. The putter was a little flat last week on the Paspalum greens; a move to TifEagle Bermudagrass can only help his cause here this week. RESULT: T55

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Adri Arnaus 1pt EW 66/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

As so often happens in golf betting, a player who you quietly fancy for the following week decides to show a little too much form on the preceding Sunday and the bookies catch wind of his form.

Having rated as a 110/1 chance last week in Abu Dhabi, Adri Arnaus was always likely to be a little shorter in the betting this week given his course form of 29/3/9 over the past 3 renewals, however a final round 65 – where in fact he was 9-under through 17 holes before double-bogeying the last – means that his price has been clipped in a little further. That flash of form though isn’t something I can ignore and I’ll happily take my chances at the odds on offer.

Enthusiasm for this bet is tempered a little by the fact that the Spaniard is yet to win on the main Tour, with 2 wins on the Alps Tour and 1 on the Challenge Tour his only silverware to date. The latter success holds some relevance though coming at the Al Hamra Golf Club in Ras al Khaimah here in the UAE, and he came incredibly close to getting over the line in last year’s Spanish Open, eventually losing out in a play-off to Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and he can count himself unlucky that his compatriot got a free drop in regulation play to take the event to extra holes.

8th at the Portugal Masters and 9th at the DP World Tour Championship to close out 2021 was impressive enough ahead of last week’s fast-finishing 20th place finish, however it’s his 3 attempts here at the Emirates that ultimately gets him the nod.

29th on debut in 2019, the 27 year-old finished 3rd the following year and 9th last year to suggest that the course suits his eye. Field rankings of 1st for SG Off the Tee in both 2019 and 2020 is eye-catching though and 5th & 1st for SG Tee to Green over the same two efforts is almost equally impressive. Last year’s effort was fuelled more with the putter, and this is the whole point with Adri – he’s developed into an outstanding putter lately and that could spell danger for the rest of the field.

6th for SG Putting for the whole season in 2021 – a monumental improvement from 143rd the year before – tells its own story and if he can marry up the performances here with his long game of years gone by with that kind of putting then he’ll go very, very close here. RESULT: MC

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Lee Westwood 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

I’m going to veer away from the current form requirement as highlighted in the preamble and back Lee Westwood to give us an each-way run for our money this week at the Emirates.

Twice a Rolex Series winner with wins at the Nedbank in 2018 and in Abu Dhabi in 2020, the 48 year-old has clearly got the taste for these big-money events and seeing Worksop’s finest complete his hat-trick here this week wouldn’t be a surprise given how he struck the ball last week. 10th for SG Off the Tee, 6th for SG Approach and 2nd for SG Tee to Green at Yas Links on his way to 20th place was a pleasing return to competitive action for Lee after more than 2 months away from the course, and he could improve on that further here if his short game and putting is a little sharper this week.

10 top-10 finishes here over the years is a massive tick in the course form box and although the win has ultimately eluded him here, 3 runner-up finishes including a play-off defeat in 2010 to Miguel Angel Jimenez isn’t to be sniffed at. Success at the 2009 Dubai World Championship, hosted at the Earth Course before DP World were involved, and the aforementioned success at Abu Dhabi Golf Club are all further relevant pointers to this week.

To my earlier point in the preamble, Westwood has ranked inside the top 10 here for GIR on 4 occasions which ticks another box and although his putting can be suspect at times, he’s seemed far more positive in that respect in the recent past, punctuated by his runner-up finish at TPC Sawgrass last year where he ranked 3rd for SG Putting on the Bermuda TifEagle surfaces. RESULT: T32

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Thorbjorn Olesen 0.5pt EW 125/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Finally I’ll complete this week’s team with a small punt on desert-loving Thorbjorn Olesen.

There was a time, not so long ago, that the Dane was expected to push on and challenge the golfing elite. Top-10 finishes at The Masters and The Open in the early part of his career, 5 wins on the European Tour as it was at the time – included in which was a Rolex Series win at the 2018 Italian Open – and further high-class wins at the Dunhill Links and Turkish Airlines Open marked the 32 year-old down as a player of significant potential.

A 5&4 victory over Jordan Spieth in the Sunday Singles was the highlight of his Ryder Cup debut in 2018 and all looked rosy until his well-documented airline issues the following year that resulted in his temporary suspension from the Tour. With the charges all finally dropped last month, Olesen, who became a father in April, can now get on with his life and career and I wonder if we’ll see something special from him over the next year or two as he looks to make up for lost time.

As the court case approached last year, we saw an upturn in his results which saw him finish 20th at Valderrama, 41st at Vilamoura then 8th at the Fire Course here in Dubai. 1st for SG Putting that week on similar Bermuda greens to what we’ll see this week was an eye-catching stat and he shook the rust off last week in Abu Dhabi by playing all 4 rounds and closing with a 69, which was beaten by just half a dozen players on the day.

4 top-8 finishes from 9 starts here at the Emirates tells us all we need to know about his liking for the course and further positive form in Abu Dhabi (8th in 2012; 2nd in 2013) compliments his aforementioned finish at Jumeirah Golf Estates last autumn. His long game will need to be good this week if he is to defy the odds, however 6th for Driving Accuracy last week at Yas Links is encouraging. RESULT: T35

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:30GMT 24.1.22 but naturally subject to fluctuation,