Race to Dubai Tips: Five to follow during the Desert Swing

Thorbjorn Olesen looks a big contender this week
Thorbjorn Olesen looks a big contender this week

A pivotal phase of the Race to Dubai begins this week, with the Abu Dhabi Championship the first of three lucrative events. Paul Krishnamurty marks your card for the Desert Swing...

"Olesen has been widely regarded as a future champion ever since turning pro, and the 25 year-old Dane has already made a strong impression at all three Desert Swing venues."

Thorbjorn Olesen
Abu Dhabi Championship Odds: 40.039/1

The nature of these desert venues tends to favour the very best players, whether they be young or old. The fairways are wide, the greens firm and fast, placing a particularly high premium on the approach shot - and that generally separates the best from the rest. Olesen has been widely regarded as a future champion ever since turning pro, and the 25-year-old Dane has already made a strong impression at all three Desert Swing venues.

He has very promising form in all three events. In Abu Dhabi, he was runner-up in 2013 and eighth in 2012. At Doha, home to next week's Qatar Masters, he was third last year. He's also finished top-five in the last two Dubai Desert Classics. The firmer and faster the better for Olesen, whose best form has come on links tracks and most recent win came in a not dissimilar test at the Perth International.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello
Abu Dhabi Championship Odds: 60.059/1

When we last saw Cabrera-Bello, he was blowing a golden opportunity for what might have been a career-changing win at the DP World Tour Championship. On that occasion, tipped each-way by the cruelly unlucky Mike Norman at 100/1, the Spaniard led through most of the final round before a terrible finish sent him spiralling down to ninth. 

Nevertheless, that improved effort confirmed once again that the Gulf events are his best chances to win. His sole victory to date came in the Dubai Desert Classic in 2012, where he has three top-20s from five attempts. Rafa also has twice finished third in Qatar and has never missed a cut at this week's Abu Dhabi venue, finishing fourth last year. I'm glad to see Mike sticking to his guns as he looks a solid each-way bet.

Miguel Angel Jimenez
Abu Dhabi Championship Odds: 150.0149/1

Speaking of our each-way column, Jimenez is my pick this week. I'm expecting conditions at Abu Dhabi, a course where he's already registered four top-11 finishes, to suit him even more than usual. As well as this week's venue, Jimenez has a cracking record in the Dubai Desert Classic, winning the title in 2010 and earning five top-tens since 2005.

Again, the emphasis on high-class iron play to fast greens is right up his street - as also illustrated by an excellent Masters record. Miguel has shown time and again at Augusta - a big-hitters' track if ever there was one - that his relative lack of power can be compensated by the rest of his long and short game. He's a particularly attractive option for place markets like Top Ten Finish

Romain Wattel
Abu Dhabi Championship Odds: 80.079/1

Wattel is developing a reputation as the imminent first-time winner who's never going to deliver. Last season he had numerous final day chances, most memorably when trading at short odds-on for the KLM Open, only to badly let himself down as the pressure told. Nevertheless, the Frenchman's potential is clear and he's looked just the type for the Desert Swing ever since arriving on the tour. 

In 2012, looking every inch the novice, he caught the eye in 14th at Abu Dhabi and 12th at the Emirates, despite suffering a few nightmare holes. He was third at the latter in last year's Dubai Desert Classic and also 11th in Qatar. A big-hitter and excellent putter, these courses suit him well, but get ready to hit the lay button if he goes odds-on.  

Emiliano Grillo
Abu Dhabi Championship Odds: 90.089/1

Finally another first-time winner and selection from our each-way column, this time Dan Geraghty's pick. As argued when making one of my Euro Tour youngsters to follow throughout 2015, the 22-year-old Argentinian is a future star, well worth following on a consistent basis. In terms of power off the tee and quality iron play are concerned, he's already high-class, and those two assets could be significant over the next few weeks.

So far his best result to date came in the Gulf, when runner-up in last year's Dubai Desert Classic at odds of 600.0599/1. We won't see those odds again for a long time, but he's still regarded as an outsider at this level and well worth a regular risk.

You can follow me on Twitter @paulmotty   

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