Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher will try to win an unprecedented third straight Omega Dubai Desert Classic title beginning Thursday in the United Arab Emirates.
Gallacher won the 2013 title by three strokes over Richard Sterne, then defeated Emiliano Grillo by one shot last year. He was pursued ardently by now-World No. 1 Rory McIlroy last year, who stumbled late.
McIlroy returns to the site of his first-ever European Tour title. He’s never finished outside of the Top 10 here, and his last six Euro Tour events have produced three wins and three second-place finishes.
World No. 2 Henrik Stenson, who proceeded McIlroy as Race to Dubai and FedEx Cup champion in 2013, is also playing this week, marking the first time in this early season that the No. 1 and 2 players have been in the same field.
Gallacher will tee off at 7:55 a.m. local time in the company of last week’s winner, Branden Grace, and Ernie Els, the only man to have won the Dubai Classic three times (1994, 2002, 2005).
McIlroy starts his day at 8:05 a.m. alongside fellow 2014 Major winner Martin Kaymer (US Open) and the UK’s Andy Sullivan, who won the South African Open during the first week of 2015.
Another notable pairings for the first two rounds include:
8:15 a.m.: Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Gary Stal
12:15 p.m.: Stenson, Louis Oosthuizen, Danny Willett
12:25 p.m.: Thomas Bjorn, Graeme McDowell, Alexander Levy
The prize fund this year totals $2.65 million.