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The Rory Effect? Dubai field bracing for tougher setup

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When Rory McIlroy speaks, the European Tour apparently listens.

Last fall the world No. 2 railed against the easy setups on the European Tour, saying that good golf wasn’t properly rewarded and that he was “sick” of shooting 15 under and finishing 30th.  

McIlroy isn’t playing this week at the Dubai Desert Classic – he has in the past, winning in 2009 and 2015 – but it appears that officials are beginning to heed his suggestion. A year after Bryson DeChambeau ripped apart Emirates Golf Club with a 24-under winning score, players this week were greeted by a much stiffer challenge.

According to those on site, the landing areas on the Majils Course have been tightened, the collars have been brought in closer to the green and the rough is not only longer and juicier, but it’s also been dragged back toward the tee. Twenty-five yards was added to the ninth hole, which already played as the most difficult on the course. Overall, the 7,353-yard layout is expected to play much tougher.

Longtime golf journalist Joy Chakravarty, who has covered the Dubai event for nearly two decades, said that he anticipates tee shots to be lost in the “brutal” rough.

“I think there was a consensus at the end of last year that the players wanted the courses to be a bit tougher,” Stephen Gallacher told the Scotsman. “I think Rory was vocal about it ... and I think when guys like that talk, people listen, and I think here they have tried to make it a bit tougher.” Gallacher went so far as to suggest that the winner this week might also lead in fairways hit.

DeChambeau, the defending champion, is relishing the challenge of a beefed-up venue.

“My wedge game is much improved,” he told reporters, “and personally I’m looking forward to the new test this week – the rough is a little bit longer, so being in the fairway is going to be key.”