x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Ernie Els booked for Dubai Desert Classic

Ernie Els has won more times at the Dubai Desert Classic than any other golfer. Jon Super / AP
Ernie Els has won more times at the Dubai Desert Classic than any other golfer. Jon Super / AP

The man who owns more Dubai Desert Classic titles than anyone else will be making a go for another at the 25th edition of the tournament, it was announced on Tuesday.

South African Ernie Els – Desert Classic champion in 1994, 2002 and most recently in 2005 – will travel to the UAE for the competition starting January 30.

The 44 year old’s first tournament victory in 1994 came by six strokes over Greg Norman. He waited eight years for another victory before beating out Niclas Fasth by four strokes in 2002.

Els made it a trio of titles in 2005, beating both Stephen Dodd and Miguel Angel Jimenez (who won in 2010) by a single stroke.

“It feels great to return to a course where you have enjoyed some success,” Els said in a press release. “I think everyone knows I love playing in Dubai. I like the lines off the tees and the greens are quite soft so if you get your ball up, you can shoot some good scores.

“It will be fun to be part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the tournament. Obviously I will be looking to win the event again.”

Els is arguably the most successful pro in the history of the Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club, where the Desert Classic is held. In 46 rounds over 12 appearances, he’s missed only one cut and shot a 169-under par total. He owns the course single-round record with an 11-under 61.

In 2013, Els won the BMW International Open in Munich, following up a 2012 victory at the British Open.

Els last competed at the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009, where he shot an even-par 144 over the first two days and missed the cut. The year before, in 2008, he finished tied for third, shooting a 12-under 276.

He’ll be looking to unseat Scot Stephen Gallacher, who won the tournament last year by tying the tournament record with a 22-under 266. Gallacher also finished tied for second in 2012, a stroke behind Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

In addition to Els, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson are among the names already confirmed to play the tournament.

The Dubai Desert Classic is the third tournament in the European Tour’s “Desert Swing” which will kick off with the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on January 16 before moving to Qatar for the Qatar Masters on January 22 and then returning to the UAE at the end of the month.