Dubai Desert Classic: McIlroy Favourite for Third Title
At this time of the year, golf’s main focus is out in the United Arab Emirates and we’re hoping for more drama after a great end to the Abu Dhabi Classic on Sunday. Tommy Fleetwood returned a successful defence of his trophy, clinching a two shot win and after a dip in form at the end of 2017, he also looks primed for a strong defence of the Race to Dubai.
Another player making a welcome return to form was Rory McIlroy who was four shots behind Fleetwood in a tie for third place. Rory is a two-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic and he starts as favourite ahead of Thursday’s first tee time.
Out in Front
At the time of writing, McIlroy is available at best odds of 5/1 with Stan James and Coral to win in Dubai this week. His last victory here came in 2015 and after a solid four rounds culminating in a -18 score in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, he’s a natural favourite for this one.
Close behind is the defending champion and anyone looking to get behind Sergio Garcia can currently get a top price of 8/1 with William Hill and Sport Pesa. Along with two-time winner Rory, we also saw a successful defence in this event back in 2014 as Stephen Gallagher completed his second consecutive victory so the omens certainly aren’t against Sergio this week.
Anyone backing Tommy Fleetwood for the win in Abu Dhabi could have claimed odds of around 20/1. That price reflects a late dip in 2017 form for the Race to Dubai winner but the bookies won’t make that mistake again, listing Fleetwood for this week’s tournament at a best price of 12/1 with Stan James and Coral.
That figure makes Fleetwood a joint third favourite along with Henrik Stenson who can also be picked up at those bets odds of 12/1 with William Hill and Betway. Of the two, Stenson was runner up twelve months ago behind Garcia but Fleetwood certainly has the better form coming into this event.
Tommy Fleetwood showed once again that while golf can be so tough to predict, there are some serious profits to be had for those that call correctly. Among those at a similar price to his 20/1 from last week include Matthew Fitzpatrick at a best price of 22/1 with Stan James and Tyrrell Hatton who is quoted at 25/1 with Coral and BetBright.
Hatton has scored well for us in recent months and although he’s had a subdued start to 2018, this could be the time when he breaks into the Top Ten at least. Others who have given us some profits in 2017 include Kiradech Aphibarnrat at 66/1 in the outrights with SportingBet and 888Sport while Eddie Pepperell enjoyed some strong finishes towards the end of last season and he looks exceptional at a top price of 200/1 with bet365.
For much of its life, the Dubai Desert Classic has been hosted at the Emirates Golf Club and we’re back again in 2018 at this par 72, 7.300 yard venue. Like many courses in the region, it is exposed and wind can be a factor, particularly in late afternoon so the draw may well favour the early starters.
Driving distance can also be a factor and that’s a rare indicator these days that may well help us find a winner. Accuracy isn’t so important however as the wide fairways are quite forgiving although there is water in play on 10 of the holes.
Looking back at all of those points, the name of Rory McIlroy does stand out. When winning here in 2015, the Northern Irishman ranked 1st for driving distance and his performance in Abu Dhabi last week suggests that 2018 may be much kinder to him.
If you don’t like the look of those 5/1 odds, there are options for longer priced golfers so here are some further recommendations although by all means get behind Rory if you’re comfortable with that figure.