The Dubai Desert Classic, a DP World Tour Rolex Series event, begins on Thursday morning and the Racing Post Sport's golf guru Steve Palmer delivers his verdict here.
The Dubai Desert Classic is one of the most established events on the DP World Tour schedule - a fixture on the circuit since 1989 - and it annually attracts a high-class field. Another stellar line-up has gathered at Emirates Golf Club for this week's edition.
|What||Dubai Desert Classic|
|Where||Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates|
|When||From 03:10, Thursday 26th January 2023|
|How to watch||Sky Sports Golf, bet365 Live Golf Tracker|
|Odds||Rory McIlroy 10/3, Tyrrell Hatton 12/1, Tommy Fleetwood 16/1, Shane Lowry 18/1, Min Woo Lee 20/1|
Most of the early spotlight falls on Rory McIlroy - the world number one. McIlroy, who has been chalked up at 10/3, has had his world ranking questioned in some quarters after the brilliant winning streak of Jon Rahm.
With Rahm having won four of his last six tournaments, many observers are suggesting the Spaniard is the real top dog.
McIlroy may draw motivation from the naysayers doubting his status and he has a fantastic Dubai record to draw upon.
As well as twice ending up as Desert Classic champion at the Emirates, the Northern Irishman has also twice won the DP World Tour Championship, which is played at the nearby Earth Course.
The main negative for the market leader is the fact he is making his first start of the year.
McIlroy usually tees up in the Abu Dhabi Championship to kickstart a fresh campaign, but he skipped Abu Dhabi this year, meaning he will be carrying some competition rust when the action starts in Dubai.
In contrast to McIlroy, the players just behind him in the outright betting have all been competing in the Middle East for a fortnight.
The Hero Cup - a team event between Continental Europe and Great Britain and Ireland - was staged in Abu Dhabi prior to the Abu Dhabi Championship.
McIlroy's good friend Shane Lowry, for example, has had four matches in the Hero Cup and four rounds in the Abu Dhabi Championship to sharpen up his game for Dubai.
McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Robert MacIntyre, Victor Perez and Min Woo Lee have been drawn in the early wave of starters, while Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, Francesco Molinari and Adrian Meronk are out late.
Standard each-way terms of a quarter the odds, the first five places are available for the Dubai Desert Classic, while there are also alternative options, like a fifth the odds the first eight places, in the Each Way Extra section.
Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is a 7,428-yard, par-72, with four par-fives, ten par-fours and four par-threes. The course has been employed for this event every year apart from 1999 and 2000.
Traditionally the Emirates has been a low-scoring track if the weather is good, but it can show some teeth in stiff breezes. The back nine is the scoring half, with three par-fives (the tenth, 13th and 18th), two relatively short par-threes (11th and 15th), and the driveable par-four 17th.
Players who can hit their ball long and fairly straight should thrive. Ernie Els is the course-record holder (61), while Rory McIlroy and Stephen Gallacher are the only dual Emirates champions in attendance this week.
The 132-man field will be cut to the top 65 and ties after round two. Rain is forecast for the first two days, before a brighter weekend.
Covering the final eight holes of the Abu Dhabi Championship in seven under par on Sunday did wonders for the confidence of Tyrrell Hatton, who appears to have found his A-game, and the Englishman should make merry at the Emirates.
Hatton at 12/1 seems a bargain given he has twice finished third at the Emirates and has a strong desert record generally.
Another English raider to consider is Tommy Fleetwood at 16/1. Like Hatton, Fleetwood has teed up both the DP World Tour events this year - the Hero Cup and the Abu Dhabi Championship - getting the Christmas rust out of their system.
Fleetwood, a Dubai resident, has finished in the top 20 in his last five Emirates appearances, while he beat Thomas Pieters in the Hero Cup singles.
The 30/1 about purring Pole Adrian Meronk must also come under strong consideration. Meronk won the Irish Open in July, then the Australian Open last month, and he continues to improve.
Meronk's driving has become spectacular and he should enjoy himself on a long, soft track this week. He finished fourth on his Emirates debut last year.