With this tournament in particular, I have been associated with it for 35 years. After playing in the first edition here in 1989, I’ve gone on to coach quite a few players who have won the Dubai Desert Classic over the years.

It started with David Howell who won down at Dubai Creek in 1999, then we had Thomas Bjorn who beat Tiger Woods down the stretch in 2001 here at the Majlis. Henrik Stenson did the same thing in 2007, and of course, Danny Willett in 2016 won here before going on to win the Masters a couple of months later. So I feel we’ve been able to prepare them pretty well.

To prepare them properly, you have got to look at the course, the conditions, how the grass is, and what the strategy is going to be.

Hitting the golf ball is easy, they can all do that. Amateurs may not know this, but professionals all still can get a bit panicky at times and get a bit of stage fright. So, you have to look at your players and try to figure out which players are and aren’t going to get stage fright.

Unfortunately, at least 80% of the players will get stage fright at some point, and then the other 20% won’t. Those will be the guys that are at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday night.

A huge thing here is, if you are not in control of your ball when it comes out of the rough, it can be a very difficult course to score on. So you have to got to understand it. I’ve been out on the course with Padraig Harrington, Joaquin Niemann and Guido Migliozzi, to show them how to hit a real shot out of the rough. A real “go-to shot” that will come out nice and soft onto these hard greens. You’ll be able to save your par a lot better knowing how to do that.

Someone even as experienced as Padraig Harrington can still get upset with me about telling him what to do. I taught him a shot yesterday that he had never seen before. Padraig thinks he knows everything, and he said he was upset with me because I showed him something he hadn’t thought of! So I still get lucky sometimes!

Then you have someone like Joaquin Niemann, he had never played this course before this week, and he absolutely loves it! He even wanted the greens to firm up even more. That then takes his shot shaping to another level. If the greens do get firm, hitting the fairway is really important for someone like him who is an ex-number one amateur in the world, he will thrive off it. Plus, he just won the ISPS Handa Australian Open last month so he’s in a bit of form.

Then the other player I have here this week is Guido Migliozzi, he lives here in Dubai, but I have only been helping him the past three to four months. But still, he’s starting to shape up nicely.

This course is definitely about front-nine scoring though. If a player can score level par on the front nine, he’s usually in contention, because the back nine is so much more scoreable. 

So, I have just got to make sure my guys are ready for it all really, which is all part of preparing for this Rolex Series tournament.

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