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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Rory McIlroy headlines field for the 2018 Omega Dubai Desert Classic

Defending champion Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Tommy Fleetwood among other players named for the event at Emirates Golf Club on January 25-28.

Rory McIlroy will be at the 2018 Omega Dubai Desert Classic as he bids to win the event for a third time. Richard Sellers / PA Wire
Rory McIlroy will be at the 2018 Omega Dubai Desert Classic as he bids to win the event for a third time. Richard Sellers / PA Wire

Two-time champion Rory McIlroy will headline January’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic, with a host of other leading golfers confirmed.

The Northern Irishman, forced to withdraw from this year’s event because of injury, will be joined at Emirates Golf Club by Sergio Garcia, who won in February before going on to triumph at the US Masters and secure his first major title.

Meanwhile, 2016 British Open champion Henrik Stenson, winner at the 2007 Desert Classic, and current Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood will also compete.

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Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick, winner of last year’s DP World Tour Championship, and colourful American Pat Perez will contest the coffee pot trophy, too, with more names to be announced in the coming weeks.

Perez, who triumphed at last month’s CIMB Classic on the PGA Tour, will make his UAE debut.

The four-stroke victory in Kuala Lumpar, his second win since last November, sealed a place next year's Masters and arrived after a long recovery from a shoulder injury last year that threatened to end his career.

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“It's been an amazing 12 months," Perez said. “I can't explain it, but I hope it continues. I have always wanted to play the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. It looks incredible and I have heard it’s run amazingly well.”

McIlroy’s return to the tournament will be welcome. The four-time major champion, 28, registered his first professional victory when he won on the Majlis in 2009. He has since added the 2015 crown, meaning he will attempt in January to match South African Ernie Els’ record of three tournament titles.

A regular to Dubai, McIlroy has an impressive track record at the event having gone 96-under par for his last seven appearances combined.

Aside from the two wins, he has five top-10s. McIlroy will be hoping for a third success, if only because it represents a good omen: the past two winners, Danny Willett and Garcia, have won the Masters shortly after prevailing in Dubai. McIlroy needs the win at the Augusta National Golf Club to complete the career grand slam.

The Desert Classic, which takes place January 25-28, will also feature a number of veterans, with former Ryder Cup captains Darren Clarke and Colin Montgomerie confirmed, alongside current European skipper Thomas Bjorn and popular Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez. All bar Clarke have won previously in Dubai.

The Mena Tour will be well represented as well, with the three leading players in this year’s Order of Merit - Jamie Elson, Henric Sturehed and Luke Joy - qualifying, together with lead amateur Todd Clements.

Dubai resident Rayhan Thomas, a winner on last year’s Mena Tour, has been handed a special invite.

The Indian amateur, who celebrates his 18th birthday next week, starred at the Desert Classic earlier this year, making the cut before finishing in a tie for 60th.