Dubai Desert Classic Betting Preview
It’s been a long time since Sergio Garcia was the runaway favourite in a regular European Tour event, but that’s the situation we’re in this week with the Dubai Desert Classic. The tournament also marks the 2013 season debut of former world number one Lee Westwood.
2013 Dubai Desert Classic Fact Sheet
- Course: Emirates Golf Club
- Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Yardage: 7,301 yards, par 72
- Defending Champion: Rafael Cabrera-Bello
- Five Consensus Favourites: Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Thorbjorn Olesen and Jamie Donaldson
- Thursday – 4:30 AM to 8:30 AM ET (Golf Channel)
- Friday – 4:30 AM to 8:30 AM ET (Golf Channel)
- Saturday – 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
- Sunday – 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
The European Tour ends their Middle East swing with a trip to the Emirates Golf Club, a course typically considered a tough test, particularly if the wind starts to become a factor. That’s probably the reason that the tournament has produced a list of established champions, including Seve Ballesteros, Fred Couples, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods and the first career victory for Rory McIlroy. There is a history of repeat winners as well, with both Els and Woods coming away victorious on multiple occasions.
At just over 7,300 yards, the length is pretty much standard for the pros, but the course contains no par-3’s over 200 yards, which is a bit of a rarity these days. Doglegs are present throughout the course, and water will come into play on more than half of the holes. With the wind expected to pick up as the tournament goes along, it’ll be the players who can control their irons the best who will likely be at the top of the leaderboard. The last note about the course is that the greens are very firm and fast, running at about 12.5 on the stimpmeter when checked yesterday morning.
Key Storyline This Week
There are two big things to watch this week. First, Sergio Garcia’s run of good form continued last week, grabbing a runner-up finish to Chris Wood in Qatar. Garcia hasn’t had a ton of success at the Emirates in his four events played (MC, 19th, 11th, 20th), but much like we’ve seen with Charles Howell III on the PGA Tour this season, you have to keep an eye on him because of how well he’s played. I don’t think he gets it done this week, but I won’t be surprised if he finally gets that major victory this season.
Secondly, we’ve got the 2013 season debut of Lee Westwood to watch. The former world number one fell to the 8th spot in the rankings this week thanks to jumps from other players, but he didn’t exactly end his year on anything spectacular. He hasn’t been this low in the rankings since October of 2009, and much like Garcia, is still looking for that first major championship. I have no idea what to make of Westwood this season, and part of that can be attributed to his firing of longtime caddie Billy Foster, which we talked about in November. Westwood is one of the streakiest players in the world, and even though I think it’s possible that he wins this week, I can’t put my money behind him just yet.
Thorbjorn Olesen (Best Odds 22-1 at Bet365)
I’m ignoring Olesen’s form at the Emirates (MC, 42nd) because he’s been playing well in recent weeks. The new Nike man struggled with his new clubs in his first tournament of the year, but he’s played well since, finishing as the runner-up two weeks ago to Jamie Donaldson in Abu Dhabi and if it wasn’t for a poor final round last week, he would have had another top-10 in Qatar. He broke out last year winning in Italy, and managed to crack the top-50 in the OWGR for the first time at the end of last season. I think Olesen wins at least one event this season, and probably has a good finish or two in the majors as well. This week seems like a good spot for him in a weaker field.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Best Odds 31-1 at Betfair)
I don’t often take defending champions in events, but there’s a little bit of value here with Cabrera-Bello at 31-1. He led the tournament last year in GIR, and is near the top again this season, despite playing more rounds than most players on the European Tour. What’s really impressive is that his final round scoring average so far this season is 66.66, which basically means that he’s been unbeatable on Sunday’s this season. I’m not going to compare him to Woods or Els, but the history of repeat winners is also enticing me a little bit, especially at 31-1.
Alexander Noren (Best Odds 37-1 at Betfair)
Noren was a big part of my fantasy roster last season, and I was waiting for a big week for him in 2013, and it finally came in Qatar. He had a very under the radar 4th place finish last week, and much like most golfers, he’s very streaky, but the one thing that never leaves him is the putter. With the greens the way they are this week, he could have a big edge on the field. When he’s on, he’s one of the better players on the European Tour, so I’m taking a flyer on him this week based almost entirely on last week. In his five years in the event, his best finish came in 2009 where he ended up 22nd.
Thomas Bjorn (Best Odds 50-1 at Ladbrokes)
Bjorn has had a disappointing couple of weeks in the Middle East, breaking 70 only once. It’s surprising for someone who’s usually so consistent, and after finishing 9th in his season debut, many were expecting another solid year. If there’s anywhere he’s comfortable, the Emirates is it. He’s a past champion here, and has four other top-10’s, including last year when his finished in a tie for 9th. I think he’s got some decent value on an each-way bet at roughly 50-1.
Joel Sjoholm (Best Odds 151-1 at Betfair)
As usual, I’ve got one dartboard special and I’m giving it to the man who loves to wear the plus-four’s, Joel Sjoholm. He’s one of the most popular players on the European Tour, and even though he hasn’t played well to start the season in 2013, he had a chance to win here last year if it wasn’t for a final round 72. His back-to-back 66’s on Friday and Saturday propelled him into a tie for 9th, and as we all know, golfers are creatures of habit. They can be playing poor golf, but a round at a spot where they are comfortable can break them free of that funk. This is what I’m banking on this week with Sjoholm. Don’t throw a ton of money down on him, but he represents great value at 151-1.