The Hero Dubai Desert Classic returns for a milestone 35th edition, with Rory McIlroy aiming to become the first four-time winner of the prestigious event.
McIlroy memorably matched Els’ record of three tiles when he lifted the trophy for a third time last year, edging out American Patrick Reed on a dramatic final day over the Majlis Course.
“It meant a lot to lift the Dallah trophy for a third time,” said McIlroy. “I’ve enjoyed a lot of success at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic over the years, so adding another title was the perfect way to start the year.
“I love coming to Dubai and the support we get from fans is always special. I look forward to getting back to Emirates Golf Club in January, and hopefully creating a bit of history.”
The Northern Irishman will be joined in the field by Champion Golfer of the Year Brian Harman along with Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Cameron Young, who have all confirmed the attendance at the ‘Major of the Middle East’.
“I’m excited to tee it up in Dubai for the first time,” said Harman. “It looks like a stunning venue that has identified great champions. I’d love to add my name to that list.”
If he were to add his name to the roll of honour, he would be joining a Who’s Who of golfing royalty.
Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie and Seve Ballesteros are just a handful of illustrious names to get their hands on the Dallah Trophy at the longest-running DP World Tour event to be held outside of Europe having started in 1989.
Last Year’s Teegate Drama
You could cut the tension with a knife during last year’s Monday finish, following persistent rain, with McIlroy getting the edge over LIV rival Reed after the duo had locked horns at the beginning of the week in what was dubbed as tee-gate.
This all came about after Reed was caught on camera throwing a tee at McIlory because he ignored him on the driving range.
“Patrick came up to say hello and I didn’t really want him to,” McIlroy said. “From my recollection, that was it. I didn’t see a tee. I didn’t feel a tee. Obviously someone else saw that. But it’s definitely a storm in a teacup. I can’t believe it’s actually turned into a story, it’s nothing.
“I was subpoenaed by his lawyer on Christmas Eve” – McIlroy in reference to Reed last year
“Trying to have a nice time with my family and someone shows up on your doorstep and delivers that, you’re not going to take that well. “I’m living in reality, I don’t know where he’s living. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t expect a hello or a handshake.”
Reed responded: “We all know where it came from, being part of LIV. Since my tees are Team Aces LIV tees I flicked him one. It was kind of a funny shot back. Funny how a small little flick has turned into basically me stabbing him and throwing a tee at him.
“It’s unfortunate because we’ve always had a good relationship. But it is one of those things, if you’re going to act like an immature little child then you might as well be treated like one.”
It was a bizarre affair, but it only added to the excitement of the week.