The DP World Tour continues its UAE residency this week with the Hero Dubai Desert Classic. Here’s the lowdown on one of the circuit’s historic events.
What is it?
First played in 1989, the Dubai Desert Classic represented the then-European Tour’s first event in the region. Hence, it was often referred to as the “Major of the Middle East”. This year’s tournament boasts new title sponsors in Hero, the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles, who already have a long affiliation with Europe's lead circuit.
The Desert Classic represents the third of four legs of the tour’s UAE Swing, and as part of the elevated Rolex Series offers increased ranking points and purse - $9 million.
When is it?
Tournament days run January 26-29.
Where is it?
Emirates Golf Club. The tournament has been played on the Majlis course every year except for 1999 and 2000, when it was held at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
This year’s line-up is headlined by world No 1 and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman has a special connection to the event, since it provided the scene for his first professional victory, in 2009. McIlroy recaptured the trophy in 2015 and has seven other top-10 finishes in his past nine appearances.
Last year, while chasing the win, he bogeyed the final hole to eventually finish third. This week, McIlroy will be up against the likes of Victor Perez, fresh off Sunday’s dramatic win in Abu Dhabi, European Ryder Cup stars Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton and Francesco Molinari, and a host of the tour’s exciting young stars. LIV Golf members Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson (Dubai winner in 2007) and Patrick Reed are also competing.
Who are the past champions?
McIlroy will be seeking to become only the second golfer to secure the famous Dallah trophy three times, after South Africa's Ernie Els (1994, 2002 and 2005). Scot Stephen Gallacher remains the only player to have successfully defended the crown, winning in 2013 and 2014.
Meanwhile, the event’s roll of honour includes many illustrious names, such as two-time champion Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros, Colin Montgomerie, Fred Couples, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia. Last year’s winner, Viktor Hovland, does not compete this week.
How to watch in the UAE?
Golf fans can catch the action on TV on "Golf Life", the new channel on eLife and on Switch TV, while selected coverage of the event will also be shown on the DP World Tour YouTube channel. The tournament is streamed on Starzplay across the Mena region.
For those looking to attend, organisers offer free general admission for all tournament days. Fans need to pre-register at https://www.ticketmasteruae.ae.