Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places
Weather forecast for Thursday: Sunshine, as usual, is a guarantee and it’s pleasantly warm all day. The main point of interest is the wind and it starts to pick up quite sharply around 3pm to maybe a peak of 15mph. There does appear to be a window for those starting earlier.
Count on Kaymer
Tee-times are based on Race to Dubai position so 47th-ranked Martin Kaymer gets an early alarm call and hits his first shot at 08:55 local.
He’s got a fantastic record in the desert although in this event it would be better described as ‘solid’. The German has seven top 20s but nothing better than tied 10th.
However, his round one performances here are better than his overall finishes. Kaymer had a piece of the first-round lead in 2015 and was also in the top five after 18 holes in 2012 and 2020.
He was tied 10th following the opening lap in 2013 and 2017 so it’s normal for him to get going quickly on the Earth Course.
Last week in the AVIV Dubai Championship the two-time major winner was tied seventh after 54 holes before finishing tied 13th so his game looks in a good place to hit the ground running.
Back Kaymer for FRL at 40/1.
AA can get motoring early
Adri Arnaus is 40th on the Race to Dubai and that gives him a tee-time of 09:35.
The big-hitting Spaniard has made it to this season closer in each of the last two years and performed encouragingly.
On debut he was 14th after round one and finished in tied 28th while last year he posted middle rounds of 68-67 to sit fourth with a round to play before ending tied 10th.
Desert golf suits him and his last five starts in the UAE show finishes of 9-12-10-MC-3.
He was ninth after day one on his most recent visit while on his first he was the 18-hole leader and eventual winner of the Challenge Tour Grand Final.
Finally, in his last five starts he was the first-round leader at the Alfred Dunhill Championship after a 64 while he was second after day one of the Portugal Masters earlier this month.
Rafa can make early raid
Rafa Cabrera-Bello starts a little later than the first two picks so offers us a little leeway if the weather forecast isn’t quite as imagined.
The Spaniard tees off at 10.30am and, once again, I’m relying on past desert exploits to kick in.
A former winner of the Dubai Desert Classic, he’s finished in the top 25 in each of his last seven appearances at the Earth Course.
He was fourth after round one in 2013, sixth after the opener in 2018 and also in the top 10 on Thursday’s closing leaderboard in 2019.
RCB was second following the opening lap at Valderrama last month while he’s made quick starts in big events in America this year.
He was third after day one in both the US Open and Byron Nelson and in the top five at close of R1 in the Memorial Tournament.
Cabrera Bello is 45/1 to take round one honours.