Dubai Desert Classic betting
The Dubai Desert Classic boasts its strongest ever field this week as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy join the European Tour regulars for the 25th edition of the event. Coverage is live on Sky Sports, beginning on Thursday at 3.30am UK time.
The defending champion is Scotland's Stephen Gallacher, who we tipped at odds of 70/1 this time last year to improve on his runners-up finish in 2012. He went on to win by a three-shot margin, adding his name to an honour roll which includes three-time winner Ernie Els and two-time champion Woods together with McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
The leading players haven't had things all their own way in recent years, however, with Alvaro Quiros winning this event in 2011 and Rafa Cabrera-Bello taking the title a year later. Woods, McIlroy and the injured Jimenez missed last year's edition, but Stenson was here and tied for 26th place.
The top five was made up by Felipe Aguilar, Richard Sterne, Thorbjorn Olesen and Marcus Fraser, who would all have been available at big prices before the tournament began. With two star names dominating the outright betting this time around, there should be plenty of each-way value once again.
McIlroy's fine record here and his improved performances over recent months guarantee that he will generate plenty of interest from the punters and he is the favourite with the bookmakers. The Ulsterman claimed his first European Tour title here in 2009 and recorded top 10 finishes on his three subsequent visits to the Emirates Golf Club.
The world number seven was runner-up to Pablo Larrazabal at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship a fortnight ago, providing further evidence that he is getting back to his best after a difficult year in 2013. Bet365, BetVictor, Paddy Power, Coral and William Hill all go just 7/2 that he will claim a second victory here.
For Woods, who can be backed at 6/1 across the board, this will be a seventh appearance at this tournament, but even the world no 1's record on this course doesn't come close to that of Els, who along with 3 victories has posted 6 top three finishes in just 11 visits. It’s surprising, then, that the big South African isn’t among the favourites, especially when you consider that he was a winner on Tour as recently as June. Several firms go 50/1, but Stan James are paying six places instead of the usual five so they get the nod.
If you believe that course form is the major factor, then you can't ignore the claims of the two most recent champions, who have each featured prominently here over the last three years. Gallacher finished 10th here in 2011 and second a year later before taking the title.
The Scot was also in the top 10 in Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago so he arrives in good form and ready to challenge again on a course which holds no fears for him. BetVictor stand out from the crowd with their quote of 50/1.
After posting top five finishes in both Abu Dhabi and Qatar, Cabrera-Bello has a similarly strong case. The Spaniard was 20th here in 2011 and tied for 17th place as defending champion last year. The price is less enticing, however, at no bigger than 28/1 with Betfred.
Matteo Manassero could be one to watch after finishing just outside the top 10 on his fourth visit to the Emirates Club last year. The young Italian has missed the cut at only one of his last 12 events without mounting a serious challenge, but that consistency coupled with his obvious talent means a big week can't be far away. Bet365 are offering 80/1.
|Ernie Els||Tournament Winner