McIlroy to lead stars at Dubai Desert Classic

Sport360 staff 07:52 27/12/2016
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Rory McIlroy.

Four-time major winner and world No2 Rory McIlroy, reigning Open champion and world No4 Henrik Stenson and Masters winner Danny Willett will try and add to their tally of Omega Dubai Desert Classic wins when the tournament tees off at Emirates Golf Club from February 2 to 5 next year.

The trio have won 29 European Tour events between them, including four Dubai Desert Classics, with Willett the defending champion.

“To think the tournament is now in its 28th year, just older than I am, is testimony to its enduring strength,” said McIlroy, who will be making his 11th appearance in Dubai, the most number of times he has played anywhere in the world.

“I have great memories of this course and tournament. I made cut here for the first time in a European Tour event as a 17-year-old amateur in 2007 and I secured my first professional win here two years later.”

The 27-year-old Holywood native, who is now 96-under-par for his last seven appearances, including wins in 2009 and 2015., added: “I will always cherish those important moments in the early part of my career. That first win was a real stepping-stone for me, helping my confidence and leading to the successes that followed.

“My great relationship with Dubai was pretty much set in stone from then.”

The 2016 European Tour Player of the Year and Olympic silver medallist Stenson, will be a compelling storyline, certain to provide a gruelling challenge to the field.

“It feels nice to get back to a golf course where you have played a number of times. Playing well in front of family, friends and supporters always gives you that extra bit of satisfaction,” said the 2007 champion.

“I am really looking forward to playing in Dubai. It would be great fun to win in Dubai again, but they (the organisers) have once again assembled a strong field and nothing can be taken for granted.”

Willett will be hoping to tap into good vibes and emulate Stephen Gallacher, the only back-to-back winner of the tournament.

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