A strong field is assembled for this week's Dubai Desert Classic, the culmination of the three week "Desert Swing”.
The Course: Emirates G.C., Dubai, UAE (par-72, 7,301 yards)
An American-style course with several doglegs, forcing players to work the ball both ways from the tee. The fairways are average in width, but with deep rough, solid driving is one of the keys to success. The Bermuda greens are generally small and flat, which places an emphasis on accurate stroke play. Water comes into play on 10 holes. There are four par-5’s - the 3rd, 10th, 13th and the closing 18th, which is a true risk-reward hole.
Ross’ Top Tip: Robert Karlsson @ 20/1 Coral
The last four winners here have been Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, which suggests that the cream will rise to the top this week. Stenson is a probable winner again, but at the odds I prefer fellow Swede Karlsson, who looks sure to go well now that he's shaken off the rust from his game with a solid rather than spectacular performance in Qatar (tied-37th). The European No.1 has been a frequent visitor here down the years and can boast four consecutive top-30 finishes from 2005 onwards, with his best finish of third coming in 1998. At over double the odds of Stenson (8/1 best with Ladbrokes), he's a value bet.
Next Best: Martin Kaymer @ 18/1 Stan James
The classy German was understandably a bit off the pace last week after just missing out in Abu Dhabi. A similar thing happened in 2008 when he won in Abu Dhabi and missed the cut at Doha, only to bounce back and push Tiger Woods (remember him?) all the way on his Desert Classic debut. With no Woods to worry about this year, there has to be a good chance he can go one better.
Outsider: Damien McGrane @ 100/1 Victor Chandler, Totesport
I had to rub my eyes when I saw the Irishman at triple-figure odds. Those of you with good memories will remember that he led this event at half-way last year, only to blow out with a 79 in the final round. And who could forget his scintillating nine-shot victory in the Volvo China Open last April. His recent form isn't bad either - fourth place in Qatar with a closing 67 - so quite why he's 100/1 is beyond me. Still, I'm not complaining.
Ross’ Match Bet: Damien McGrane to beat Stephen Gallacher @ 5/6 Skybet
Tournament Lay: Ernie Els (12 on Betfair at the time of writing)
Ernie has a terrific record in this event, hence the shortish price, but seems to have forgotten how to string four decent rounds together.
Robert Karlsson 1pt each way @ 20/1 Coral
Martin Kaymer 1pt each way @ 18/1 Stan James
Damien McGrane 1pt each way @ 100/1 Victor Chandler, Totesport