Jeunghun Wang continued his incredible streak of form on courses measuring 7,400 yards or more last week, making it three wins and a runner-up in his last five starts on courses matching that description. Unfortunately, despite him featuring on the list of seven potential winners that I provided, I did not back him.
This week, the European Tour’s Desert Swing comes to a close with the Dubai Desert Classic. The Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club measures 7,328 yards so it’s just a bit too short for Jeunghun Wang to pick up his fourth European Tour win.
There’s plenty of talent in the field this week but the man to beat is definitely Henrik Stenson. The Swede is always a huge threat, especially in Dubai, and arrives at the Majlis Course off the back of five consecutive Top 10 finishes. His credentials are obvious and 7/1 is probably just about too big if you’re interested.
Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Bernd Wiesberger, Tyrrell Hatton, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and a wealth of others have all made the trip too though so Henrik Stenson isn’t the only threat.
Of the last ten DDC winners, all but Rory McIlroy in 2009 had a previous Top 20 in the event and at least one prior Top 5 in Dubai/Qatar. They all made the cut on their last start and they had all played in the last two weeks. Again, all but McIlroy in 2009 were European Tour winners. Seven of the ten had a Top 10 finish in their last two starts and had a European or PGA Tour win in the last two years.
Applying all of those criteria leaves just four men. Henrik Stenson, Tyrrell Hatton, Bernd Wiesberger and Pablo Larrazabal. I wanted to see the draw before I backed anyone and as of right now, it looks like the early/late starters will have a big advantage. Only Stenson and Hatton are on the right side of that draw so they seem like the most likely winners.
With the conditions likely to be volatile over the first two days, anything can happen this week so I’m just going to run with a few outsiders teeing off early on Thursday and hope for the best.
I’m starting off with my favourite selection, Felipe Aguilar at 350/1. The Chilean is a two-time European Tour winner and even though his T41 last week might not seem too impressive, he was only a solid putting week away from being right in contention. Aguilar hit ten more GIRs than the eventual winner in what was a top class ball-striking week. He ranked 4th in Driving Accuracy and hit 66 Greens in Regulation.
If he can repeat that sort of form then there’s every reason to believe, after finding himself on the right side of the draw, that Aguilar could better his T3 at the course from 2013.
Nacho Elvira is up next at 140/1. I actually backed the Spaniard last week at 125/1 but left him out of the preview. A weak start to his final round really hurt his chances and although he had a lot of birdies late on, a number of bogeys cost him his chances and he finished T6. Elvira is yet to win on the Eureopean Tour but has gone close on a number of occasions. It’s a lot to ask this week but coming off a great week, I do like his chances.
Finally, in a very non-committal week for me, I’ll take Nathan Kimsey for First Round Leader at 150/1. The Englishman came out of nowhere to earn a European Tour card at Q-School after a very disappointing year. Last week he finished in the Top 10 on the European Tour for the first time ever. He was in a tie for 3rd after the 1st Round and now with the earliest tee time on Thursday, he has a good chance to start fast once again.
There are a number of players that I did like and I may have another bet or two after the first round but for right now I’m pretty happy to stay away from any big plays.