Tommy Fleetwood is the latest star name to announce his return to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic where he will be joined by Major champions Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Danny Willett at Emirates Golf Club from 23-26 January.
The quartet join an already all-star cast, including defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, former winners Rafa Cabrera Bello and Henrik Stenson, in addition to multiple European Tour victors Matt Fitzpatrick, Ian Poulter, Matt Wallace and Lee Westwood.
Fleetwood will arrive in Dubai looking to improve on a tie for sixth last year and, potentially, follow in the footsteps of Willett (2016) and Garcia (2017) who, just a few months on from their respective victories over the Majlis Course, went on to claim maiden Major titles at The Masters.
No stranger to success in Dubai, Fleetwood was crowned European Tour number one at the final event of the 2017 season – the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates. He will therefore be one of the favourites to lift the Dallah Trophy when the world-class field assembles next year.
“I am delighted to be playing in the 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic,” said Fleetwood, currently ranked 15th in the world. “I love playing in Dubai and this event is among my favourite weeks of the year. I hope in 2020 I can add my name to the amazing calibre of previous champions.”
Fleetwood will be joined by compatriot Willett, hot off a resurgence that has seen the Englishman claim two of the European Tour’s biggest titles over the past 12 months.
Not only did he take top spot at the DP World Tour Championship last year to announce a dramatic return to form, he has since gone on to claim a dominant BMW PGA Championship victory at Wentworth last month.
Having so impressively re-established himself as one of the most talented players in the game, Willett will no doubt arrive in confident mood when he tees it up in Dubai looking for a third career title in the city.
“My victory at this event has a very special place in my heart,” said the 32-year-old Willett. “Not only was it a fantastic springboard to what followed at Augusta a few months later, it was a title I had always wanted to win. Having watched so many star names do battle over the past 30 years, it was an honour to add my name to a list of such iconic champions.”
Willett will be joined by 16-time European Tour winner Sergio Garcia, who succeeded the Englishman as both Dubai Desert Classic and Masters Tournament champion two years ago.
The Spaniard fired four rounds in the 60s en route to a three-shot victory over Sweden’s Henrik Stenson two years ago, using it as a springboard to Major success.
Louis Oosthuizen rounds out the latest four players to commit to teeing it up next January at Emirates Golf Club, as the 2010 Open Champion looks for a 10th European Tour title and his first in Dubai.
South African golfers have a rich pedigree in the Dubai Desert Classic, with four victories – three of which were claimed by Ernie Els, the other by Wayne Westner – and it would not be a surprise if Oosthuizen were to add his name to that list.
With the four-day event set to be bigger and better than ever, offering an enhanced hospitality experience, contemporary food and beverage offers and a rejuvenated kids’ zone, in addition to a truly world-class field, this is the perfect time to book a daily or season ticket with prices starting from AED75.
The inaugural Dubai Desert Classic was played in 1989 and won by England’s Mark James. Since then, the roll of honour has boasted some of the biggest names in golf over the past 30 years, including the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Fred Couples, Rory McIlroy, Colin Montgomerie and Tiger Woods.
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Niclas Weiland continued the trend of debutants taking the MENA Tour by storm as the young Swede took a one-shot lead with a sparkling bogey-free seven-under par 65 on an extremely windy opening day of the Abu Dhabi Open by Arena.
At Yas Links Abu Dhabi on Monday, he was one ahead of England’s James Allan, who could not have asked for a better celebration on the occasion of turning 25. The southpaw from Chelmsford, England, submitted a six-under par 66 card.
The players had to battle high wind throughout the day, which was severe in the morning and subsided only slightly in the afternoon. Play was also suspended for half an hour at 4pm local time because of a sandstorm.
Another debutant, England’s Mitchel Sarling, made an eagle on the 18th hole to finish on five-under par 67, where he was joined by Italian veteran Alessandro Tadini and Sweden’s Gabriel Axell.
In-form South African MG Keyser, leader in the Journey To Jordan, played early in the morning when the wind was at its peak, but did very well to shoot a 68, where the English duo of Harry Konig and Matt Killen joined him later in the day.
Dubai-based 15-year-old Josh Hill rediscovered his form with the driver and reaped rich dividends with a three-under par 69 that put him on top of the amateur leaderboard. England’s Jack Floydd, who finished second last week in Journey To Jordan-2, came in with a 70. Robin ‘Tiger’ Williams, who sensationally won last week by eight shots, started his campaign with a 73.
The 24-year-old Weiland turned professional this year after finishing his college at Barry University in the US. He played a few events on the Nordic Golf League where his best finish was a T-6 in Landeryd Masters. His mother took up a new job in Abu Dhabi recently, and Weiland was quick to request the Tour for spots in a few events on the Autumn Schedule.
He made the most of his exemption, getting off to a hot start with three straight birdies and never let that momentum slip away.
“I played solid and made very few mistakes. I made good putts on the first three holes. After that, I was able to recover well whenever I made any mistake,” said Weiland, who will become the second straight debutant to win on the Tour after Williams last week if he holds on to his lead.
“The conditions were pretty tough out there. The wind switched when we were on the back nine, so I think it was slightly tougher for us.”
Allan, who qualified for the second stage of the European Tour Qualifying School last week, made the long-winding travel from Milan to London and on to Abu Dhabi, and was feeling the effects.
“I am very pleased with that. I started well with two birdies in the first two holes, but it was from the fourth hole to the 14th that we seemed to be playing continuously into the wind. I was feeling tired on the back nine, and that could be the reason why I made a bogey from the middle of the fairway on the 15th. But overall, I am chuffed with that round.
“I will spend the evening with some friends and celebrate, but I have a late tee time tomorrow, so I should be fresh. There will be no excuse about my round tomorrow.”
Keyser was among the earliest to go out and he faced the full brunt of the wind, but that was something that helped him play better on a golf course on which he has not done very well before.
“I have never played well on this course. I tend to overthink here a bit, but it was so windy today that you just can’t do that. I tried to play a little safe. And it also helped that we were in Ayla Golf Club last week, which was again very windy on all four days,” said Keyser.
Four players were tied for the ninth place at three-under par 69, including Hill, Daniel Hendry (Scotland), Harry Ellis and Paul Dwyer (both England).
World number five Jon Rahm will be one of the star attractions as he defends his home title at the Open de Espana in Madrid this week.
Rahm followed in some famous Spanish footsteps as he joined the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Sergio Garcia as a winner of the event when he triumphed in the capital last year.
The 24-year-old is now hoping to retain a title for the first time as the event moves to the Club de Campo Villa, following his two-shot win over Paul Dunne at Centro Nacional in April 2018.
Rahm told europeantour.com: “There are some weeks when I really want to win. I’d love to be a multiple winner of the Open de Espana, and I’d love this to be the first time I successfully defend a title.
“It won’t be more pressure than last year. That was the first time I played the event, I was fourth in the world, I had just played well at Augusta.
Rahm will tee off alongside countrymen Rafa Cabrera Bello and Adri Arnaus on Thursday while Garcia, Alvaro Quiros and veterans Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez are among the other Spanish entrants.
More to follow…