While the PGA Tour contests the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Arizona (our Power Rankings for that event can be viewed here), some of the top talent in Europe heads east to Dubai for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Emirates Golf Club serves as the final venue of the three-week Desert Swing and will welcome a field that includes current world No. 1 Tiger Woods.
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Stephen Gallacher returns to defend the title he won last year by three shots over Richard Sterne. Here are 10 players to watch this week in the Middle East:
1. Rory McIlroy: Of the three-highest ranked players in this week's field, the Ulsterman (somehow) enters with the fewest questions tied to his game. After a "foot fault" cost him a shot at winning two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, McIlroy enters this week as the favorite to win an event where he recorded his first professional win at age 19.
2. Tiger Woods: Last year, Woods missed the cut in Abu Dhabi and then won at Torrey Pines the next week. After a rare MDF result last week in San Diego, he hopes to bounce back quickly once again, this time in Dubai.
3. Henrik Stenson: The Swede missed the cut two weeks ago in the desert and is still showing signs of a man who played more than his fair share of golf down the stretch in 2013. His run of five straight top-10 finishes here from 2006-2010 included a win in 2007, but Stenson's best finish since that streak ended is T-20.
4. Rafael Cabrera-Bello: The Spaniard led through 54 holes in Abu Dhabi before finishing T-4, then backed that up with a tie for third last week in Qatar. Cabrera-Bello has experienced some past success at Emirates, winning in 2012 and cracking the top 20 each of the past three years.
5. Joost Luiten: Luiten's fourth-place showing at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship was just the start of a solid run, which has now included two more worldwide top-10 finishes. His record in Dubai includes just one made cut in four appearances, but his current form indicates that tide may reverse itself this week.
6. Branden Grace: Grace began 2014 with a runner-up finish at the Volvo Golf Champions and was in contention all week in Qatar. After earning a spot on the Presidents Cup last fall, he appears eager to continue the lineage of great golfers from South Africa.
7. Thomas Bjorn: The Dane continues his resurgence and is now back inside the top 25 in the latest world rankings. He's been feast or famine in Dubai lately, alternating a T-15 (2010) and T-9 (2012) with a pair of missed cuts. After winning the Nedbank, Bjorn notched back-to-back top-10 finishes before stumbling to a missed cut last week in Qatar.
8. Ernie Els: The Big Easy hasn't played this event since 2009, but his results in the middle of the decade were superb: two wins, three runner-up finishes and a pair of T-3 results from 2002-2008. Few players in this week's field can match the pedigree of the four-time major champion when it comes to Emirates GC.
9. Peter Hanson: The Swede faded a bit during the latter half of 2013 but is returning to form, having recorded five straight top-25 finishes worldwide dating back to October. Hanson has four top-30 finishes in Dubai since 2007, including a ninth-place showing in 2011.
10. Peter Uihlein: After missing the cut in Abu Dhabi, Uihlein fired four rounds of 70 or better en route to a T-16 showing last week in Qatar. Tabbed as one of the game's rising stars, the American has struggled to get his ground off the game in 2014 but has a high ceiling on potential once things start to click.