The first DP World Tour event of 2024 takes us out to the middle-east for the newly put together Dubai Invitational, a pro-am tournament where the leading players on the circuit join a star from sport or screen for what should be a decent week of golf.
The professional event sees 60 players playing four rounds of golf without a cut while the amateur tournament is only over the first three days where an amateur pairs up with a pro for a team score from Thursday to Saturday.
The tournament might be brand new this week but the course isn’t. We are at the Dubai Creek Resort this week, a course which held the Dubai Desert Classic around the turn of the century but not many in the field will have teed up then so for most this will be a brand new track. It is a par 71 which measures 7,009 yards but in the dry air of this part of the world it will not play as long as that and with the amateurs involved it isn’t going to be set up terribly tough.
As the name would suggest water is a feature around this course and the undulating fairways will mean that ball strikers are likely to come to the fore. That makes sense anyway when you consider the relative lack of knowledge the majority of the field will have on the greens. I would be looking at pure ball strikers who roll in a few putts because I find it hard to believe that this will be anything but a low scoring week.
This might be the first tournament of 2024 but there are still four members of the top 50 in the world rankings here, headlined by the world number two Rory McIlroy. He will be looking to start what he will hope is a big year in style here. He is joined in the field by his Ryder Cup teammate Tommy Fleetwood while the BMA PGA Championship winner Ryan Fox also gets 2024 underway here. Adrian Meronk is the other top 50 player in the field this week.
Six other players in the top 100 in the game are also here this week. Nicolai Hojgaard is just outside the top 50 in the rankings and could move into them with a good week here while Jordan Smith, Thorbjorn Olesen, Thriston Lawrence, Rasmus Hojgaard and Pablo Larrazabal are the other members of the top 100 in the world. Zander Lombard is the only player in the top 10 of the early Race to Dubai rankings teeing it up so he could make a decent move here.
As ever when he tees it up on the DP World Tour, Rory McIlroy is the favourite this week. He is a 3/1 shot to be the first player to run off with this title and you can see why because the layout is likely to be up his street. He might not get the advantage with the driver that he usually has though with this course not being the longest so that might keep him close enough to the field but if 3/1 shots are your thing then he is likely to give you an exceptional run for your money. They’re not for me.
Tommy Fleetwood tends to go well in this part of the world and he is 8/1 to open up his year with a win. If this turns into a bit of a links like tournament then he will definitely enjoy that because he is very good in those situations. Fleetwood ended last season second in the DP World Tour Championship and in a weaker field he is probably a fair price to win this and the best alternative to those who don’t like McIlroy.
Nicolai Hojgaard was the man who finished ahead of Fleetwood in the DP World Tour Championship at the end of last season and he is 12/1 to open up the new campaign with another win in Dubai. Hojgaard had a breakthrough year in 2023 by making the Ryder Cup team and he’ll be looking to kick on in 2024, a year where he will be expected to win bigger titles than routine DP World Tour ones. He is good in the wind, decent throughout the bag and feels a more than fair price at 12/1 here.
Adrian Meronk and Rasmus Hojgaard are next in the betting at 16/1. Meronk was the unlucky man when it came to the Ryder Cup but finished last season with a win and another top 10 in Dubai in his last five starts. He also won in Italy last season and would have every chance here. Hojgaard finished last season with three top 20 finishes in his last three starts and was a winner on the DP World Tour during that campaign. Both men hold chances at 16/1.
Thorbjorn Olesen feels like a good player to be on this week. He has a decent record in this part of the world without actually winning but there is no course disadvantage or anything against him this week and as one of the better players in the field I think he is in with a chance. There is a chance that links players will come to the fore in this tournament and Olesen is very much one of those. He ended last season with three top 10s before a poor final round saw him tumble down the field at the DP World Tour Championship. This field is nothing like as strong as that and at 18/1 I think he is a strong chance here.
Adrian Otaegui tends to fare well on the shorter courses on the DP World Tour and he is a player who has already won on a links course in the past. He is a solid driver of the golf ball who is a very good putter and I think those are the two traits which will be needed this week. When we get to the bigger fields or the longer courses the Spaniard might come up short but in a week where the course will be set up friendly and certainly won’t play long I think he is one to be high up on the shortlist. His last two wins on the DP World Tour saw him card scores of -23 and -19 so he can go low and can play in the wind. I think he’s a good chance here.
Usually when a player is named the Ryder Cup captain his form goes off a cliff but Luke Donald actually played well last year without putting four rounds together. He will be the Ryder Cup captain again next year but for the next 12 months or so he can concentrate on hitting the ball and this course should set up well for him. He is straight off the tee and he has a decent short game and a good putter. He’ll never contend on any long courses these days but the way this one is going to be set up he’ll be fine. Donald has countless top 10s in the Dunhill Links which is a similar event to this in that the courses are set up easy. I’ll pay to see how he goes.
Adri Arnaus finished 2023 in terrible form but his record in this part of the world makes me think that he could turn his fortunes around and have a decent week here. He has played the Dubai Desert Classic five times and has finished in the top 15 on three occasions while in the Abu Dhabi Championship he has a couple of top 20s and he was T6 in the Ras Al Khaimah Championship a year ago as well. His form to end 2023 might not have been fantastic but when he lands in the Emirates he seems to become a different player. In an open event where plenty might be rusty and nobody has a course advantage I’ll pay to see if that comfort pays off.
Back T.Olesen to win Dubai Invitational (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 19.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
Back A.Otaegui to win Dubai Invitational (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-6)
Back L.Donald to win Dubai Invitational (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 111.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-6)
Back A.Arnaus to win Dubai Invitational (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-6)