Rory McIlroy looking for a second 'Desert Storm' in Dubai. Image courtesy of bbc.co.uk
One of the three highest-rated players in the Power Rankings for this week’s field, Rory McIlroy is hoping to wind back the clock. The Ulsterman returns to an event which holds special significance for him. This is the tournament which produced his first professional win in 2009 when he was just 19 years old. To make matters even more interesting, McIlroy has been grouped with world number one Tiger Woods and defending champion Stephen Gallacher for the opening two rounds.
A fortnight ago, McIlroy finished second in Abu Dhabi after copping a two-stroke penalty for a rule infraction and remained in Dubai to prepare for this event. Woods plays this tournament for the second time in four years, having finished tied for 20th in 2011. Tiger is looking to bounce back after a rare wipe-out at Torrey Pines last week. Gallacher returns to defend the title he won last year by three shots over Richard Sterne .
Swede Henrik Stenson missed the cut two weeks ago in the desert and is still showing signs of a man who played more than his fair share of golf down the stretch in 2013. His run of five straight top-10 finishes at the Emirates Golf Club from 2006-2010 includes a win in 2007, but Stenson's best finish since that streak ended is a 20th-place tie. Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello led through 54 holes in Abu Dhabi before finishing T-4th and backed that up with a tie for third last week in Qatar. Cabrera-Bello has enjoyed past success here, winning in 2012 and cracking the top 20 in each of the past three years.
Ernie Els hasn't played this event since 2009 (the year McIlroy won), but his results in the middle of the decade were superb; two wins, three runner-up finishes and a pair of T-3 results from 2002-2008. Few players in this week's field can match the pedigree of the four-time major champion when it comes to the Emirates course which makes the Big Easy a threat in the final tournament of the three-week Desert Swing.
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