Six defining moments in the history of the DP World Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic

A constant on the circuit since 1989, the tournament’s trophy has been lifted by many legends of the game.

Right from its inception, the Dubai Desert Classic was a popular event on the DP World Tour schedule, one which has won by the biggest names in the sport.

Indeed, after the first two editions were won by Ryder Cup stalwarts Mark James and Eamonn Darcy, there was triumph for five legends over the next seven years, names as big as Severiano Ballesteros, Ernie Els, Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal.

With the exception of 1999-2000, when it ventured to the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, the tournament has been played on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club.

It's a layout that has matured alongside the event and also the tour. It's a strong test, often blustery, with excellent greens and a back nine that rewards aggressive golf.

Let's take a look at six of the defining moments of the tournament's history (some of them rather extended moments).

The Tiger years

Between 2001 and 2008 Tiger Woods was enticed to the tournament fives times, each time prompting high excitement and hullabaloo. On debut it seemed he would repay the appearance fee with a win, when opening with two laps of 64 to open up a two shot lead on the field. But the advantage was halved on Saturday and Thomas Bjorn surprised the great man on Sunday, pushing him into second.

Five years later he made a third visit - he had been fifth in 2004 - and finally landed the win, although even then he needed extra holes to overcome Ernie Els.

He was third on defence before winning for a second time in 2008, a week when he opened and closed the tournament with rounds of 65. It was also a week when he completed his post-tournament press conference with a sharp retort in the direction of one particular Englishman who was irking him at the time.

"The gap between you, at No. 1 in the world rankings, and Phil Mickelson at No. 2 is wider than the gap between No. 2 and 1,000," he was told. "I thought Ian Poulter was No. 2 in the world," he replied.

The Ernie era

It crossed over with the Tiger years but, nonetheless, between 1997 and 2008 the big South African, was little other than sensational when venturing to an event he first won in 1994.

Winning twice, by four strokes in 2002 and by one in 2005, was impressive enough, but in his eight visits during that stretch he never once - not once! - finished outside the top three on the leaderboard.

"I just love the place," he said, going on to explain his affinity was really rather easily explained: "I just feel very comfortable with the people, the crowd and especially the golf course. I've got some good lines that I follow off the tees."

The Age of Gallacher

If the domination enjoyed by Tiger Woods and Ernie Els could be somewhat predicted, the remarkable four year period of success enjoyed by Scotsman Stephen Gallacher at the Emirates was little short of gobsmacking.

He kicked it off by finishing second in 2012, won by three in 2013, made it back-to-back triumphs in 2014, and was third when chasing the hat trick.

In those four years of golf, he was tied seventh or better on the leaderboard at the end of 15 of the 16 rounds. His second win was also notable for his ease among intimidating company because he played the first 36 holes with Tiger Woods and three of his rounds alongside Rory McIlroy.

Rory McIlroy's first professional win in 2009

McIlroy had first teed it up at European Tour level in 2005, a mere fortnight after his 16th birthday, and failed to break 80 in either round. He turned professional two years later and had no difficulty winning a card for 2008, but opportunities for the first win were few and far between.

A first round 63 in the European Masters in September offered hope, but he squandered a four-shot 54-hole lead and lost to Jean-Francois Lucquin in extra holes. It was the first of eight top ten finishes in 11 starts, but the win was stubbornly difficult to find - he even lost another play-off in Hong Kong.

When he thrashed an opening round of 64 at Emirates GC in February 2009 another chance had presented itself. Playing partner Mark O'Meara even insisted that he was better at 19 years of age than Tiger Woods had been.

"Mind-blowing," McIlroy said of the comparison before completing the win and then admitting: "You see guys winning and think it's easy," he said. "It's not and this is definitely a monkey off my back."

The Augusta pointer

In 2016 Danny Willett claimed success in Dubai two months before slipping his arms inside the Green Jacket after winning the Masters at Augusta National. Twelve months later Sergio Garcia repeated that double.

Naturally, when Haotong Li claimed the Desert Classic in 2018, there was much chatter that it was a good omen. Alas, he finished T32nd, but he had been fourth after 18 holes in his Masters debut.

Anything in the Majlis-Masters link? Garcia didn't believe it. "I don't think so," he said. "I think it's coincidence. They both have 18 holes. Other than that ..."

But Thomas Aiken has said of the Majlis: "It's not really a golf course that's ever really fit my eye. I like to hit it left-to-right. Most holes go right-to-left, especially on the back nine."

Remind you of anywhere else?! A fader bemoaning the fact his shot-shape is unsuited for the test? It's a sigh that echoes around the Augusta trees every bit as mournfully as the cry of those freight trains on the distant railroad.

And Ernie Els said of the Majlis: "Definitely a drawer's golf course. It's what my eye found back in the day, I could move it easily right-to-left and obviously Augusta is very similar."

Monty's driver off the deck

"The best shot I ever hit," Colin Montgomerie mused in 2019. "That one."

He was referring to the driver off the deck which he thrashed from the 18th fairway in the final round. In many ways the details reveal the difference between golf today and then. He has 228 yards to the pin, into a wind, over the water which protects the front of the green. Not a driver for the modern golfer.

But when the shot was recreated by European Tour stars, it proved just what a sensational effort it was, clinching a one shot victory over Miguel Angel Jimenez.

READ MORE: The American Express: Hudson Swafford bursts through to take title as Jon Rahm overshadowed

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