Top stars primed for battle at Dubai Desert Classic

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Top stars primed for battle at Dubai Desert Classic

DUBAI -- The Omega Dubai Desert Classic will be bursting with energy when a blockbuster field, headlined by Tiger Woods and European Tour's top-notch heavyweights, descends on Emirates Golf Club this week to create their own slice of history at the Majlis course.

With 10 of the 12 members of the 2016 European Ryder Cup team joining Woods in the fray, including Olympics silver medallist Henrik Stenson and defending champion Danny Willett, top potential storylines are many, but none would be more compelling than Woods who will be hoping to bring back his usual incisive game as he continues his comeback from a back injury.

Woods, 41, may not have won a tournament since his seven-shot victory in the Bridgestone Invitational in 2013, but the 14-time major winner gets another opportunity this week to pick up the momentum after missing the cut in his first full-field tournament in 17 months at Torrey Pines last week after a 17-month layoff.

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Maintaining a positive attitude, Woods insisted he would try to look at the positives and take that into Dubai.

"It felt great to be back competing. I'm going to Dubai, I know the course, the greens, the putts, how it'll play having played it in so many different conditions over the years," Woods was quoted as saying at Torrey Pines.

"It's nice going to a course you know, like the South Course (in Torrey Pines)," said Woods, a two-time winner in Dubai.

Fresh from racking up a creditable tied eighth at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, in-form Stenson will come out all guns blazing, certain to provide a gruelling challenge to the field.

Should the 2016 Open champion claim the title for a second time in Dubai, he would move to the top of the list for most European Tour titles in the Middle East with five following his wins in the 2006 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, 2007 Omega Dubai Desert Classic and 2013 and 2014 DP World Tour Championships in his 50 starts in the region, highlighted by four wins and 20 top tens overall.

Watched with great interest will be defending champion Willett who will be aiming to emulate Scotland's Stephen Gallacher as the only back-to-back winner in Dubai. A successful defense of his crown will also see Willett become the first Englishman to win the same event two times in a row since Luke Donald, who achieved the feat at the 2011-12 BMW PGA Championship.

Hoping to conjure up some old magic will be Jose Maria Olazabal and Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn -- Ryder Cup captains, past and present -- in one of the major highlights of the field, studded with nine major champions with 24 titles combined, four European number ones and 11 past champions.

With Curtis Luck, the 2016 US Amateur champion, joining young Rayhan Thomas, the winner of the MENA Golf Tour Order of Merit title, the amateur division will see a keen tussle between the two rising stars.

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Luck, a 20-year-old Perth native, has flashed glimpses of his burgeoning talent, finishing in a tie for 49 at three under at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, highlighted by a 65 in the second round while Thomas, 17, will be hoping to make the most of the massive opportunity along with fellow tour members Craig Hinton, Luke Joy and Zane Scotland, who have made it to the starting field after finishing among top three in the Order of Merit for professionals.

Providing a distinct Arab flavor to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic will be the Moroccan duo Ahmed Marjan and Younes El Hassani, who have honed their skills on the MENA Golf Tour.

Every good story has an engrossing subplot, and this the 28th edition of the Omega Desert Classic has many, promising an exciting finish when the players hit the final stretch on Sunday.

This article is from Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.