Monday, December 26, 2016

McIlroy, Stenson and Willett headline Omega 

Dubai Desert Classic field in February


DUBAI, December 26 — World number two Rory McIlroy, pictured above, and fourth-ranked Henrik Stenson will join defending champion and world number 11 Danny Willett in spearheading a stellar cast for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club from February 2 to 5, 2017. 
The sizzling trio, who between them have won six major championships and 29 European Tour events, are no strangers to success at the Majlis course, having won the ‘Major of the Middle East’ at least once as the event keeps assuming a much grander profile with time.

“To think the tournament is now in its 28th year, just older than I am, is testimony to its enduring strength,” said McIlroy, a four-time major winner, who will be making his 11th appearance in Dubai, the most number of times he has played anywhere in the world.

“I have great memories of this course and tournament. I made cut here for the first time in a European Tour event as a 17-year-old amateur in 2007 and it was here I secured my first professional win two years later. 

“I will always cherish those important moments in the early part of my career. That first win was a real stepping-stone for me, helping my confidence and leading to the successes that followed.

“My great relationship with Dubai was pretty much set in stone from then,” said the 27-year-old Holywood, Belfast native who is now 96-under-par for his last seven appearances which resulted in first in 2009, sixth in 2010, tenth in 2011, fifth in 2012, ninth in 2014, first in 2015 and sixth in 2016.

The 2016 European Tour Player of the Year and Olympic silver medallist Stenson, who had been a long-time Dubai resident before moving full-time to the United States in 2012, will be a compelling storyline, certain to provide a gruelling challenge to the field.

“It feels nice to get back to a golf course where you have played a number of times. Playing well in front of family, friends and supporters always gives you that extra bit of satisfaction,” said the 40-year-old, who became the first Swede to win a Major, a feat he achieved at the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon and dedicated it to his friend Mike Gerbich, “one of the real good guys back in Dubai.”

“I am really looking forward to playing in Dubai. It would be great fun to win in Dubai again, but they (the organisers) have once again assembled a strong field and nothing can be taken for granted. We will have to see how things unfold,” said Stenson, who won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in 2007 in a field led by Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.

Defending champion Willett, who, like Stenson, also picked up a first Major (at the 2016 Masters) and had good showings elsewhere around the world, will be will be hoping to tap into good vibes and emulate Stephen Gallacher, the only back-to-back winner of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

With virtually who’s who on the European Tour in the field, potential winners are aplenty who will be itching to step up to the plate and challenge the top draws for supremacy, promising first-class entertainment for the fans



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