The European Tour stays in the desert and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks to be First Round Leader at Emirates GC...
"Willett has some momentum after closing with 68 (his lowest 18) in Abu Dhabi and he looks to have an ideal tee-time of 12:10."
Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places
Weather forecast for Thursday: Temperatures start out in the mid-60s for the early starters and rise to a peak of 80 for most of the afternoon. There's some wind around 10mph in the morning, it drops to almost nothing around midday and then picks up again in the late afternoon.
FRL history in Dubai Desert Classic
2020 67 - Thomas Pieters (12:30)
2019 65 - Matthew Fitzpatrick (12:30)
2018 62 - Jamie Donaldson (13:00)
2017 65 - Sergio Garcia (08:05)
2016 66 - Alex Noren (08:35)
2015 64 - Bernd Wiesberger (12:35)
2014 63 - Rory McIlroy (08:05)
2013 62 - Richard Sterne (08:35)
2012 63 - Rafa Cabrera Bello (08:35)
2011 65 - Rory McIlroy (07:50)
Strategy: The FRL has come from the afternoon wave in each of the last three years. All the afternoon leaders have come in a slot between 12:30 and 13:00 while the morning leaders went out between 07:50 and 08:35. Interestingly, it looks as if the weather is trying to help those midday starters again. They get the warmth and the lighter winds. It may be a good part of the draw to mine.
Willett can cash in
Danny Willett has strong memories of this event.
The Englishman won here in 2016 and a couple of months later he played brilliantly to win The Masters and land his first major.
Willett gained a second win in the Middle East when landing the DP World Tour Championship at the end of 2018 so he's capable of great things in the UAE.
There are hints in his recent play that he could be ready for another big week and hopefully he can set the tone for it with a fast start.
Willett was T25 at Augusta National, T30 in the Golf in Dubai Championship, T32 in the DP World Tour Championship and T16 in last week's Abu Dhabi Championship.
His putting was good in all those events and he ranked 6th for SG: Putting at Abu Dhabi GC last week.
He's not had too many fast starts of late but Willett has some momentum after closing with 68 (his lowest 18) in Abu Dhabi and he looks to have an ideal tee-time of 12:10.
Victor Perez tees off 10 minutes later than Willett so is also in what I'm hoping is a golden slot.
He didn't quite live up to the hype last week but after 18 holes he was in a tie for seventh. In his previous start in the region, the Frenchman had a piece of the lead in the DP World Tour Championship so he certainly knows how to start fast in the desert.
Also third after the first day in Saudi Arabia last year, he looks to be a player who could really thrive at this week's course.
Perez was T29 on debut and last year he posted T16. However, middle rounds of 66-67 put him second going into the final day so he was a big part of the story 12 months ago.
A runner-up at the BMW PGA Championship in October, Perez has plenty of confidence in the bank and is worth a bet at 45/1 to make an early impression from his 12:20 tee-time.
Make it Matt
Several top players have made the early running in this event so I don't mind looking at the front end of the market.
Matt Wallace is 30/1 which doesn't leap off the page now but hopefully will look good business come Thursday evening.
Let's get straight to the point: Wallace is a fast starter. His last seven openers read: 65-68-69-64-63-72-68.
That's helped him have the first-round lead in the RSM Classic and place second after 18 holes in the Scottish Championship and Golf in Dubai Championship. He was tied seventh following round one in Abu Dhabi last week.
Wallace, Steve Rawlings' headline selection, is a big fan of this course and finished runner-up two years ago. I expect him to challenge heavily again and he can fuel a title bid with yet another quick start.
He heads out at 12:30 from the 1st.