By Kent Gray
MENA Tour winner turned European Tour Rookie-of-the-Year Robert MacIntyre headlines the latest gaggle of players confirmed for the 31st Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The 23-year-old Scottish lefty will be joined by South African’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Erik Van Rooyen and Italian Guido Migliozzi, all first-time winners on the European Tour last season, at the $3.25 million event from Jan. 23-26.
New Dubai resident Adri Arnaus (Spain) and Matthias Schwab (Austria), who both come close to maiden victories last season en-route to finishing 41st and 17th respectively in the 2019 Race to Dubai, have also been unveiled for Emirates Golf Club.
MacIntyre wrapped up the Sir Henry Cotton rookie of the year trophy and best Challenge Tour graduate titles with his share of 14th place at last month’s DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates. It comes after the lad from Oban finished T-6 in his major championship debut at The Open at Royal Portrush and twice came close to a maiden European Tour title, at the British Masters and Made in Denmark.
“This year really couldn’t have gone much better,” said MacIntyre who won his second professional start, the MENA Tour’s Sahara Kuwait Championship, in 2017, before going on to earn his full European Tour card via a top 15 finish in the 2018 Challenge Tour.
“I’ve come close to winning on a few occasions, which has been a great experience. I learned a lot each time and feel it is just a matter of time until I put it all together and win.
“If that were to be in Dubai, it would be amazing. The Scots have a pretty good record there, so I’d love to follow on from Stephen (Gallacher) and Colin (Montgomerie) by putting my name on the trophy too.”
Van Rooyen had spent much of the previous 18 months knocking on the door of a first European Tour title, which subsequently came earlier this year at the Scandinavian Invitation. Rubber stamping his status as one of the Tour’s brightest young stars, the 29-year old has backed that up with three runner-up finishes and seven further top-10s, resulting in a career-best 10th place finish on the Race to Dubai.
“This has been a great year but I hope it’s just the beginning,” said Van Rooyen, who graduated from the 2017 Challenge Tour Rankings. “To win in Sweden was an amazing moment in my career but I have been just as pleased with the consistency I have shown this year. I want to build on this in 2020 and a win in Dubai, following in the footsteps of Ernie Els, would be amazing. I grew up watching him win all over the world and it would be great to achieve even a fraction of that myself.”
Migliozzi burst onto the scene this season, claiming victories at the Magical Kenya Open and Belgian Knockout in as many months en-route to 40th place on the Race to Dubai.
“I cannot wait to play at Emirates Golf Club,” said the 22-year old, who would become the first Italian to win the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic title. “This has been an incredible first season, but I’m not going to stop here. I want this to be the start of a long career and the more I play in tournaments of this stature, the better I will get. I have not played in this event before, but I have heard great things, so I can’t wait to get going in January.”
It has been a roller-coaster journey for Bezuidenhout to get to this point in his career but a victory at the Andalucia Masters back in June was a great example of triumph over adversity. His victory was no flash in the pan, however, as the South African racked up an additional five top-10 finishes and now sits as high as 90th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Rounding out the crop of emerging talent are Spain’s Adri Arnaus and Austria’s Matthias Schwab. The former has posted six top-10 finishes in 2019, including runner-up finishes in Kenya and the Czech Republic, while the latter narrowly lost out in a recent six-man play-off in Turkey – one of 10 top-10 results in just his second full season on the European Tour.
All six will arrive at Emirates G.C. looking to emulate the success of defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, who will return to Dubai alongside fellow winners Rafa Cabrera Bello, Sergio Garcia, Haotong Li, Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett. In addition, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Matt Wallace and Lee Westwood are all set to inject their own star quality on the Majlis.