McIlroy to assert class over Dubai Desert Classic field

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Rory McIlroy is no longer alone is his attempt to match or better Tiger Woods’ standing as the greatest modern-era golfer that’s ever lived.

The Northern Irishman now has at least three travel buddies in that quest, with Jordan Spieth’s rapid rise, Jason Day’s consistency and Rickie Fowler’s nearly-man status all holding an equal share of the conversation at each major tournament.

With the former two in that rival trio all out of action this week though, it’s a chance for McIlroy to dominate the headlines once again.

The Ryder Cup star is streets ahead of the field in Ladbrokes’ betting for the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, a tournament the 26-year-old has won twice in his career already.

His most recent success at Emirates Golf Club came last year, when his 22-under par final score was three shots better than the runner up, Alex Noren.

McIlroy’s form at the event is particularly fearsome. In the five years between his maiden victory at the tournament in 2009 and last year’s reclamation, the Holywood native has never finished outside the top 10.

It stands to reason then that the bookmaker installs him as the 9/4 favourite, with his closest rival looking to be Sweden’s Henrik Stenson at 10s.

Despite McIlroy’s appearance on the European Tour combining with the absence of Spieth and Day, Fowler doesn’t find himself granted the same vice-like grip over the PGA Tour market.

The Californian isn’t even the favourite for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, with Ladbrokes handing that honour to Bubba Watson at a price of 10/1.

Fowler comes in as 16/1 third-favourite for the event, with last-week victor Brandt Snedeker providing the meat in the Watson-Fowler sandwich.

At 25/1 though, Hideki Matsuyama could use a favoured venue of his to return to form. The Japanese star missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open on his return to action last week, but has finished fourth and second in his two appearances in Phoenix, making him a solid each-way play.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.