Dubai Desert Classic: Quiros worth chancing again, says The Punter

Alvaro Quiros – Can he win again in Dubai?
Alvaro Quiros – Can he win again in Dubai?

With Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson all present, there's a stellar line-up in Dubai this week for the 25th edition of the Dubai Desert Classic. What will it take to win this historic renewal? Read Steve's extensive preview here...

“Alvaro Quiros is a desert golf specialist and as shown in 2010 when he won, and before that in 2009, when he traded at heavy odds-on before a late crash, he loves this track and at 55.054/1, he had to be included.”

Tournament History
After a weaker than usual renewal last year, the cash has been splashed for the 25th anniversary edition of the Dubai Desert Classic and Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson are all in the line-up this time around.

Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, UAE

Course Details
Par 72, 7301 yards
Stroke Index in 2013 - 70.65

The Majlis course, designed by Karl Litten and opened in 1988, with the exception of the 1999 and 2000 renewals, has hosted the event since its inception. Like last week's venue, Doha GC in Qatar, the wind is often a factor. The fairways are generous and the Bermuda greens are of average size but fast - they'll aim to set them at 12.5 on the stimpmeter. Water is in play on 10 holes.

Useful Sites
Event Site

Course Details
Twitter Links
Tee Times
Weather Forecast
Alternative Weather Forecast

TV Coverage
Live on Sky Sports all four days - staring at 3.30am on Thursday

Last Five Winners
2013 - Stephen Gallacher -22
2012 - Rafael Cabrera-Bello -18
2011 - Alvaro Quiros -11
2010 - Miguel Angel Jimenez -11 (Playoff) 
2009 - Rory McIlroy -19

What will it take to win the Dubai Desert Classic?

A solid all round game gets the job done and surprisingly, given that the greens are fairly fast, putting is just about the least important stat according to recent renewals. In four of the last five years, the winner has ranked 1st or 2nd for Driving Distance so bombing it off the tee helps. The odd year out was 2010 when big-hitter, Alvaro Quiros, won and he ranked 6th for Driving Distance that week. 

The last five winners have ranked 34th, 28th, 49th, 31st and 16th respectfully for Driving Accuracy so length off the tee is clearly more important than accuracy but wherever your drive lands, you need to find the greens - 15th is the worst any of the last five winners have ranked for Greens in Regulation.

A high finish in the event the year before is a strong pointer - Stephen Gallacher had finished runner-up in 2012 before his victory last year and before that, five of the previous eight winners had finished at least seventh. The three exceptions were Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who had been 20th a year earlier, Rory McIlroy, who had missed the cut, and Tiger Woods in 2006, who hadn't played in 2005. But he wasn't without previous form at the venue - he'd finished fifth in 2003 and runner-up in 2001.

Is there an angle in?

As was the case last week, form in the Portugal Masters, at Oceânico Victoria, holds up really well here and it was franked yet again last year when Gallacher won here having finished sixth in Portugal.

Is there an identikit winner?

In Sergio Garcia, we had a Spanish winner in Qatar last week and they seem to like it here too. Miguel Angel Jimenez, Quiros and Cabrera-Bello kept the trophy in Spanish hands between 2010 and 2012 and Spanish legends, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal are also previous champions.

In addition to Seve, Jose and Miguel, names like, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Mark O'Meara, Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy and Colin Montgomerie, are all etched on the trophy so it's quite clear that the cream often rises to the top and with Tiger, Rory and Henrik back in attendance, we could easily see a top-class winner again this time around.

In-Play Tactics

The front nine ends with a stretch of three tough holes in four - the 6th, 8th and 9th are all strong par fours. The back nine is the scoring nine, with three par fives (the 10th, 13th and 18th), but watch out for the 12th hole, which last year ranked the toughest.

Richard Sterne and Stephen Gallacher sat first and second after round one last year and they fought out the event right up until deep into the back-nine on Sunday. Had Sterne got the better of the tussle, first round leaders would have a 50% strike rate this century! Thanks to Gallacher's success, the record is now just six out of 14 but that's still a remarkable record. 

Alvaro Quiros' win in 2010 was simply incredible for several reasons. He not only had two triple-bogeys and a hole-in-one on his way to victory but he trailed by eight strokes after day one and was still that far behind at halfway! Nobody else has ever come from anywhere near that far behind and I'd definitely concentrate on the leaders from very early on. 

In the last 16 years, Mark O'Meara, who was six back after round one, is the only other winner to be further than three back after day one and Robert Jan Derkesen, the shock 2003 champ, is the only other winner this century to be more than two back at halfway.

Market Leaders

Desert golf seems to suit Rory McIlroy down to a tee. As a young pro, he had three consecutive outings in this tournament from 2006 and the best he could manage was tied 56th, sandwiched between two missed cuts, but since 2009 his form in the Middle East is simply incredible. 

He's only played the Qatar Masters once, finishing 46th in 2009 but his form elsewhere reads very well. In Abu Dhabi he has figures reading T5, 3, 2, 2, MC, T2, at the DP World Championship they read 11, 5, 3, 1, T5, and his figures here since that second missed cut read 1, 6, 10, 5. Anyone thinking Rory won't be in-the-mix this week might just be wrong.

His chance is obvious and outstanding but the market reflects that. If you want to back someone highly likely to be there or thereabouts come Sunday and you don't mind taking a short price, then Rory's your man but at less than 5.04/1 I'm prepared to leave him out.

We already know that Rory has a morning tee start on Thursday and we already know he's going to be playing with second favourite, Tiger Woods, who played some deplorable stuff in defence of the Farmers Insurance Open last week. So badly did he play on Saturday that he missed the secondary cut and didn't even tee it up on Sunday!

He missed the cut in Abu Dhabi last year before going on to win the Farmers so it wouldn't be the biggest shock ever if he were to bounce back here and win but he plays Torrey Pines incredibly well and last week's poor effort was a bigger shock than last year's effort in Abu Dhabi. It's one thing to bounce back from a missed cut in the Middle East to win on possibly his favourite track but it's quite another to expect him to do so in the Middle East after crashing at Torrey Pines.

I got my fingers burnt last week, so if he were to rebound successfully and win here I wouldn't be a happy bunny, but I can't back him. He looked lost on Saturday with every department out of sync.

Given he finished last year in the form of his life, after taking almost a month off to rest and recuperate, it's not really surprising that Henrik Stenson has been a bit rusty so far in 2014. He missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, before finishing 28th in Qatar last week so he's going in the right direction but I have my doubts whether he's ready to win again just yet. He's got an admirable record here already but he has an equally good one in Qatar and he didn't quite fire there. 

He's been allocated a lovely afternoon draw with big pals Ernie Els and Thomas Bjorn on Thursday and that's a plus but I'm more than happy to wait and see how he starts.


I've been in a bit of a quandary this week. As highlighted above, early pacesetters have such a great record that the sensible thing to do is to wait until after the first round and get stuck into the leaders but with the front three, and the front two in particular, taking out so much of the book, there appears an awful lot of value to be had pre-event, so I've felt compelled to get four onside already and that list may grow before the off!

Branden Grace has been playing well since before Christmas when he contended at the Nelson Mandela Championship. He's been a bit disappointing in-contention compared with the ruthless Grace of 2012 but I couldn't resist getting him onside when the Sportsbook opened up at 46.045/1 yesterday.

Alvaro Quiros was a bit disappointing when a selection at his beloved Doha last week but it was solely down to his putter. He ranked seventh for Driving Distance and second for greens hit, the two key stats here, but putted poorly. He averaged 1.84 putts per green, ranking 60th, but he's a mercurial character and just the sort to roll in a 12-footer early on this week and think he's Loren Roberts! He's a desert golf specialist and as shown in 2010, and before that in 2009, when he traded at heavy odds-on before a late crash, he loves this track and at 55.054/1, he had to be included.

Ernie Els was a standing dish at this event finishing first, second or third in eight consecutive appearances between 1998 and 2008 before surprisingly missing the cut in 2009. He hasn't been back since but he wasn't awful in Qatar last week and I thought 65.064/1 was way too big for the Big Easy.

And finally, Scott Jamieson could be worth a small wager at 200.0199/1. He was fifth in 2012 and 26th last year so has course form in the book and he has form in Portugal too - he shot 60 in round three there back in October. He hasn't played anywhere this year yet but he's had a good reason - his wife was expecting a daughter. I assume, given Scott is in this week's line-up, that she's arrived safely now and if he were to win this week, he'd be far from the first to be inspired by the 'Nappy Factor'. 

I fancy I'll add one or two more at big prices before the off when the usual Wednesday drifts occur but I'll start the In-Play Blog early to capture them all before kick-off and I'll be back later with my preview for the week's other event - the Phoenix Open.


Branden Grace 46.045/1 (Sportsbook)
Alvaro Quiros @ 55.054/1
Ernie Els @ 65.064/1
Scott Jamieson @ 200.0199/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open account using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn We'll Refund You £/€20 If the Bet Loses

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles