Sports Betting Weekly

Omega Dubai Desert Classic

When: Saturday, 31 January 2015 (FINISHED)
Where: Emirates Golf Club
With two exciting legs in Abu Dhabi and Qatar already down in the books, the final event of the European Tour’s “Desert Swing” gets underway at the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club today as another strong field of title hopefuls tee off in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

The 7,316 yard, par 72 course is a well-established fixture on the European Tour and has hosted the prestigious tournament every year since its inception in 1989, save for a two-year stint in 1999 and 2000 when the event was instead played at the nearby Dubai Creek course.

The venue is globally renowned for its pristine putting surfaces and the all-round excellent condition of its course, with the front nine holes generally accepted as being markedly trickier than the back nine. Water also plays a prominent role at the Emirates Golf Club, with 10 of the 18 holes featuring some kind of hazard, including the finishing hole, which is a classic par 5 that favours the risk-takers.

As you would thoroughly expect from the surroundings, cloudless skies and warm temperatures are forecast for the event, though the breeze is expected to pick up over the weekend to a potential high of 20mph, which is definitely enough to cause the players to re-jig their strategy from the tee – especially given this is a course that favours power hitters who are willing to take on the dog-legs.

The roll call of previous winners at the Dubai Desert Classic makes for impressive reading, with the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie and Tiger Woods all tasting success at the club, but the reigning champion is Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, who won the event for a second consecutive year after a strong back nine enabled him to finish one shot clear of Emiliano Grillo.

Given the strong line-up, pristine course and near perfect conditions, this year’s event looks set to produce some very good scores indeed, so if the favourites can marry their driving game with the accuracy required to navigate some of the course’s trickier obstacles, expect the winning tally to be somewhere in the region of -20. If one of the big-hitters can find their range early in the opening round, a winning margin of four strokes or more at 10/3 looks a decent bet, while if you fancy this year’s Dubai Desert Classic to be another closely-contest affair, you can get 5/2 on a one-stroke win.


Unsurprisingly the biggest name in the field, world #1 Rory McIlroy, is the outstanding favourite at 3/1 and comes into the event on the back of a second place finish in Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago. The Northern Irishman’s first outing of the season demonstrated that his long game is already in fine shape – McIlroy led the greens in regulation table (GIR), which is a key stat for this course – and if he can iron out his slightly off-key putting, he’ll be heavily fancied to make the winners’ circle in Dubai.

Behind him, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson is priced at 12/1 and has a win and three top five finishes in his last seven starts. Couple that with the fact that he won the 2007 renewal and a combination of form and course experience make him a far more solid pick than Martin Kaymer at 16/1 who, despite still finishing third in Abu Dhabi, will undoubtedly be reeling from the fact that he blew a ten-shot lead in that event and may well struggle to rediscover his best form after such a nasty set-back.

Fourth place in the betting is torn between Sergio Garcia at 22/1 and Lee Westwood at 25/1, with the stronger recent form and improved odds of the latter making him arguably the better pick. Westwood ended 2014 with victory in the Thailand Golf Championship and has not missed a cut in his last 11 appearances at the Dubai Desert Classic, picking up five top 10s and three top 25s. Garcia’s last four appearances at the course, meanwhile, have all resulted in top 20 finishes and the Spaniard also boasts three runner-up finishes in his last 12 outings as well as two other tops 10s.

Beyond that, Branden Grace at 25/1 is another player hotly-tipped to do the business this weekend despite being a no-show in the previous two outings at the course. The South African is currently in sparkling form, with two recent wins and a couple of top 20s in his last four outings, and at such long odds there will be plenty of people willing to take a punt on him making a real impression in Dubai.

Finally, reigning champion Gallacher is bidding to become the sixth golfer to win a European title three years on the bounce and is also priced at 25/1 to complete his hat-trick. Given the strength of the field this year, the Scot will have a hard time replicating the successes of his previous two appearances, but ample course know-how means he has to be considered as one for the shortlist.


When it comes to picking a solid outsider for this year’s Dubai Desert Championship, the name on most people’s lips is Bernd Wiesberger at 33/1. The talented Austrian finished just four strokes behind Gallacher in the 2014 renewal and a third-place finish in Qatar last week shows that he already has form on his side. Furthermore, Weisberger was ranked in the top 10 for both distance and GIR at last year’s event, with consistency in both areas likely to be vital this time out as well.

Also well worth a look is South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, though shorter odds of 28/1 mean that he features behind Wiesberger in our reckoning. Having posted a run of strong finishes towards the backend of 2014, Oosthuizen claims that his well-documented injury problems are now behind him and given that he has finished tied third and tied seventh in his last few appearances at the Emirates Golf Club, he certainly merits plenty of respect in this year’s renewal.

Casting our net a little further, you can also get 44/1 on last year’s runner-up, Grillo. As previously mentioned, the Argentine was only narrowly beaten to the 2014 title by Gallacher, and having also tied fifth in Qatar last week, he’s a player who looks to be hitting top gear at just the right moment. Having led the field for GIR and finished seventh in fairways hit during that runner-up appearance, Grillo is another golfer who has precisely the skill set required to flourish in the Dubai Desert Classic.

One final player worthy of our consideration – and coincidentally the longest-priced golfer on our shortlist – is Qatar runner-up, Marc Warren, who is available at a massive 66/1. The Scot is bidding to break into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings and knows that a win in Dubai would help him accomplish that goal, so he’ll be even more motivated to post a strong finish. Also known to be a streaky player, Warren looks likely to carry the momentum he gained in Qatar into this one.

Given the overall prevalence of British players in our selections this week, bettors may also find some joy in backing Great Britain and Ireland to be the winning region at the Dubai Desert Classic at 11/10, while a strong South African contingent at this year’s event also makes the 9/2 on a “rest of the world” winner a viable prospect. All in all, however, it would take a brave punter to bet against McIlroy in this one, so any wagers on the other main candidates highlighted in our preview may be better placed as each-way or to win minus the favourite at expense of slightly longer odds.