Ryder Cup hopefuls raring to go ahead of Dubai Desert Classic

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Ian Poulter in action last year in Dubai (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

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Hot on the heels of being crowned European Number One for the third time in his career, Lee Westwood will return to the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic where he will tee it up alongside Race to Dubai runner-up Matthew Fitzpatrick at Emirates Golf Club from January 28 – 31.

Joining the English pair will be compatriots Ian Poulter and Paul Casey, who boast 26 European Tour titles between them, former OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic winner Rafa Cabrera Bello and multiple European Tour winner Matt Wallace.

Fresh from a spectacular end to 2020, with Fitzpatrick winning the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai and Westwood finishing second to top the Race to Dubai Rankings, the pair are looking forward to a date with the Majlis to kick-start their 2021 campaigns. Westwood has been a runner-up at the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic on three occasions in 1999, 2010 and 2012 and is keen to add more success in Dubai later this month having previously won the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai in 2009.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic and if you look at my results here historically, you could say the course suits me,” said Westwood, who has 25 wins to his name on the European Tour. “I first played this event in 1994 and the changes and growth of Dubai since then has been quite staggering. There are a lot of good holes – the 8th is spectacular, teeing off towards the skyscrapers, and the 18th especially is a great finishing hole. This is a title I’d love to win having come close in the past.”

Fitzpatrick will make his seventh consecutive appearance in the event, dating back to his rookie season of 2015, during which he won the first of his six European Tour titles at the British Masters:

“This is one of the iconic venues on the European Tour and it’s an event I look forward to every year when I begin my season in the Middle East,” said Fitzpatrick, who in 2018 at the age of 24 became the youngest Englishman to reach five wins on the European Tour with victory at the OMEGA European Masters, surpassing the record previously held by Sir Nick Faldo. I have enjoyed my off-season having celebrated the win last month and I’m excited to get going again ahead of what should be a very busy year with The Ryder Cup on the horizon in September.”

Casey will be making his first start in the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic since 2014 and has never missed the cut in seven previous starts, with a share of fourth place in 2009 representing his best result thanks to four consecutive rounds of 68: “I’m looking forward to returning,” said Casey, who will be going in search of a 15th European Tour title. “I love playing in Dubai, it is one of those events that jumps out as one of the most prestigious on the European Tour and it’s one I’ve always enjoyed competing in. I know the course well and I’m happy to be starting my 2021 European Tour campaign in the region again.”

Poulter, a 12-times European Tour winner, has teed it up on the Majlis for the last four editions and will be making his 11th career start in the event having made his debut back in 2001: “I love coming to Dubai as it’s the perfect environment to start the season,” said Poulter. “I’ve played well here over the last few years with two top-10s and I’m keen to try and improve on that and take home some silverware this time. The Majlis is a course that I feel comfortable on and I can’t wait to get started in a few weeks’ time.”

Spanish star Cabrera Bello is a Dubai resident and has strong ties with the event having won his second European Tour title on the Majlis in 2012. The 36-year-old has been an ever-present since 2010 and has two additional top-10s to his name, runner-up in 2016 – which helped him to qualify for a Ryder Cup debut later that year – and a share of sixth place in 2018.

Englishman Wallace is searching for a fifth win on the European Tour, having finished runner-up on five occasions since he last tasted success at the 2018 Made in Denmark. Three of those second-place results have come in Dubai – at last year’s Golf in Dubai Championship presented by DP World, the 2019 OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic and the 2018 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai – and he clearly enjoys teeing it up in the city.

“There is something really special about playing in Dubai and it really would mean a lot to win the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic,” said Wallace. “This will be my fourth appearance in the event and it’s one I look forward to when I sit down to plan my schedule. The list of past winners speaks for itself and there is always a strong field so it should be a great week.”

They join a world-class field for the 32nd staging of the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic which includes reigning US PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa, Ryder Cup stars Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton, multiple Tour winner Christiaan Bezuidenhout , 2017 OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic winner Sergio Garcia, 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and defending champion Lucas Herbert. Attendance at the event is for invited guests only but the action will be beamed to a worldwide audience on mainstream broadcast sports networks and highlights and exclusive content will be shared on the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic social media channels.

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