By Kent Gray
European Tour royal Colin Montgomerie will tee it up for the first time since 2014 as one of six past champions confirmed today for the 29th edition of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The 54 year-old Scot, who produced arguably the greatest shot in the event’s storied history en-route to victory in 1996, will be joined on the Majlis from Jan. 25-28 by reigning champion Sergio Garcia, 2009 and 2013 winner Rory McIlroy, along with Henrik Stenson (2007), Rafa Cabrera Bello (2012) and Thomas Bjorn (2001).
Other big names confirmed for the $3m event are Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter, 2016 European team rookies Thomas Pieters and Andy Sullivan, reigning Abu Dhabi champion and current Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood, 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke and DP World Tour Championship defender Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, Belgian Thomas Detry and China’s Li Haotong – who famously closed the 2017 Open with a 63 at Royal Birkdale to finish 3rd – are also confirmed along with U.S. PGA Tour cult hero Pat Perez who Golf Digest Middle East exclusively revealed as a headline act earlier this month.
Montgomerie last played for the famed Dallah (the tournament’s Arabic coffee pot trophy) during the special 25th anniversary edition in 2014 where he carded rounds of 70-70-69-74 to finish T-48.
His win in 1996 included the greatest exclamation mark in the tournament’s 29 years when he flushed a driver off the deck from 240 yards on the 18th hole to set up a two-putt birdie and a one stroke victory over Ernie Els.
Here’s a video reminder of what was later voted the European Tour’s shot of 2014:
After claiming a record eight Harry Vardon Trophy titles as the European Tour’s moneylist winner – including seven in a row from 1993-1999 and his final one in 2005), Montgomerie was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013.
A main tour major sadly eluded the Scot but he’s won two senior PGA titles and the Senior U.S. Open to go with his 31 European Tour titles and remains a drawcard wherever he plays.
The performance of McIlroy, who closed down his miserable 2017 campaign after a disappointing T-63 performance at last week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, will be monitored more closely than normal at the start of the 2018 Ryder Cup year. The Northern Irishman is scheduled to make his first appearance of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship the week before Dubai.