While last week’s Joburg Open event represented a low-grade, low-key resumation of the Race to Dubai, virtually all the serious contenders for that lucrative race return from their winter break for this first leg of the ‘Middle-East Swing’. One of the strongest fields ever seen on the European Tour assemble for the fourth running of the Abu Dhabi Championship, and we can expect more of the same over the next three weeks.
 
There may be a great field on show, but those of us who’ve never been great fans of target golf tend to be underwhelmed by the course. Fairly long, with little penal rough to speak of, low scores are the norm around here. Fast greens and wind are the only real defences, and if conditions are calm this is the type of venue where we could see the first ever 59 on the European Tour.
 
Nevertheless, the formbook tends to stand up around here, with MARTIN KAYMER, Paul Casey and Chris Dimarco all high-class previous champions. Only five of the eighteen players to have made the top-5 here could have been described beforehand as unlikely candidates. However, that doesn’t make our task all that much easier, for there are 28 members of the world’s top-100 in this field, and 14 from the top-50. Numbers like that are rarely seen in Europe outside the Open Championship.