Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Dubai Desert Classic 2017

We have the final leg of the Desert Swing in Dubai this week but unfortunately we won't see Rory McIlroy playing alongside Tiger Woods due to his ongoing recovery from the rib injury sustained in Johannesburg a couple of weeks ago. Instead, Tiger Woods will tee it for the first two days with Masters Champion, Danny Willett and Matty Fitzpatrick. Henrik Stenson leads the betting and is a strong favourite one at that. He warmed in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago and arrives this week at a course where he has won previously and produced another 5 TOP10s in his other 10 starts. Throw in the expected wind for this week, Stenson looks to be the one to beat and I was sorely tempted to make him my only bet this week. That was after considering Martin Kaymer who I believe is getting very close to a win and was tempting @ 33/1 but he appears to have got the "bad draw".

Wind & The Draw


The draw hasn't suited Kaymer as he has an afternoon tee time on Thursday just as the winds are forecasted to pick up from the morning of 5km/hr to 25km/hr. If the forecast is accurate, he may be at a disadvantage. Friday afternoon's forecast is even worse and raises the possibility of being suspended at which time the Friday morning players may be on a score that the afternoon starters may find themselves too far back to contend. Indeed Friday may be a non-day pending severity of the winds.  It's a guess at this stage as to how the weather will play out but for the time being I have decided to leave him be. Favourite, Stenson, along with other leading contenders: McDowell, Pieters, Garcia, Hatton, Willett, Fitzpatrick and indeed Tiger Woods, have an early tee time Thursday starting at the 10th. It will be interesting to see the pace of play too and whether the morning starters really do blow away the chances of the afternoon brigade.


The Course

The Majlis course over the years has seen multiple Major winners prevail here but its also been a good hunting ground for wind exponents. Stephen Gallacher is a twice winner here and indeed was 2nd in 2012 prior to winning back to back in 2013 & 2014. He was 3rd then in 2015. Previous stats of recent winners shows that accuracy off the tee is not essential but GIR is, and with the expected wind to come it may be even more crucial as well as a good scrambling game. Those with a solid desert pedigree should do well here and if any player tells you in an interview later he wasn't aware of the leaderboard, he's telling fibs! Patience will be key this week and those that handle the conditions will rise to the top of the leaderboard. Let's hope for four rounds but be prepared for a 54 hole tournament.

Selections

I think Stenson will win and have mulled over for the past couple of days as to whether he will be my only bet. He's just a tad too short so instead I've taken a stab on overpriced Anirban Lahiri @ 110.00 in the outright market and 4.00 in the TOP20. India's Number 1 has slipped to 86 in the OWGR rankings but has been shown solid form already this season on the PGA Tour where he's 4/5 with 3 TOP25s to his credit, including a 3rd place finish at the CIMB Classic last October and a T13th at the RSM Classic one month later. He was T25th LTO at the Career Builder Challenge. If he's driven by success of fellow Asian players he'll be chomping at the bit to join Hideki Matsuyama and Jeunghun Wang in the winner's enclosure soon. He won twice in February 2015 at the Hero Indian Open and the Malaysian Open, so hopefully he can continue to shine this February again.

I'll complete my staking plan with three TOP20 selections in Jorge Campillo, Felipe Aguilar & Peter Uihlein.

The American is another that's overpriced and can resume his season having returned from wrist injury recently which saw him finish TOP10 at the South African Open last month. He has strong claims in the wind having won his sole Europeantour title at the Madeira Islands Open, not to mention having been beaten in playoff for the Dunhill Championship in 2013, where he shot a 60 at Kingsbarns. He won the US Amateur at Chambers Bay in 2010 also. He was 13th here two years ago and can hopefully get a solid start Thursday playing alongside another links exponent, Richie Ramsay and Aussie amateur, Curtis Luck, the current US Amateur Champion (Ramsay US Amateur Champion in 2006).

Jorge Campillo is in some consistent form of late with 3 TOP20s in his last 4 starts. Indeed he produced a TOP10 in Dubai last November. The 30 year old has been improving year on year and is now at 152 in the OWGR. He will make his 6th appearance at the Classic and he'll look to improve on a best finish of 23rd back in 2014. He was 21/28 last season which resulted in 12 TOP20s (42%) so at 6.00 for another here I thought was fair considering the Spaniard has shown form on wind affected courses in the past and he has an early tee time alongside George Coetzee & Felipe Aguilar.

It's Aguilar in the Campillo grouping that I am also interested in this week at a big 10.00 for a TOP20. The Chilean has gone off the scene for awhile but has been simmering of late and actually topped the GIR stats in Qatar last week. Has shown good form on links/wind affected courses in the past and was the first player eliminated from the 9 hole playoff at The Open de Espana back in 2013 played at El Salar. Has only 1 notable effort at The Majlis, a 3rd place finish in 2013 but is worth a chance at the price to build on some good iron play of late and grab a T20.


0.25 pts win A. Lahiri @ 110.00
2.75 pts TOP20 A. Lahiri @ 4.00
2.00 pts P. Uihlein TOP20 @ 4.50
2.00 pts J.Campillo TOP20 @ 6.00
1.00 pts TOP20 F.Aguilar @ 10.00