An impressive field has gathered in Abu Dhabi this week to contest the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. World Number four Martin Kaymer defends the title but the three men above him on the Ranking will start.
This tournament marks the beginning of the European Tour’s Middle Eastern swing. The circuit will travel to Qatar next week then back to the UAE for the Dubai Desert Classic the week after. These events have grown in stature over the years and are now used by the European Tour’s top players as a springboard for the season.
Germany’s Martin Kaymer has an incredible record in this tournament. After winning the title in 2008 he finished runner-up to Paul Casey in 2009 before lifting the Falcon trophy again in both 2010 and 2011.
But the German will have his work cut out if he’s going to win the title for a third consecutive season. World Number 1 Luke Donald makes his 2012 European Tour debut as he begins his defence of the Race to Dubai. World Number 2, Lee Westwood is also looking to start the year with a bang. He’s enjoyed a long winter break but went into that break on the back of two wins in the space of three events.
Last year’s runner-up and World Number 3 Rory McIlroy will be hoping to go one better this time out and provide the platform for a stellar 2012.
Also teeing it up is former World Number 1 Tiger Woods. The American has enjoyed success in the Emirates before – he won the Dubai Desert Classics of 2006 and 2008. He will be looking to continue the form he showed in winning the Chevron Challenge last December.
2011 Major winners Darren Clarke and Charl Schwartzel will start and, with Jason Day also on the entry list, there are six of the World’s top 10 players in the field.
Designed by renowned desert course architect Peter Harradine, the course at Abu Dhabi Golf Club is long and challenging with plenty of water hazards to negotiate. Stretched this season to 7,600 yards, it’s a venue that suits the power hitters.
Venue: Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Date: Jan 26-29
Course stats: par 72, 7,600 yards
Purse: €2,076,000 Winner: €348,000
Defending Champion: Martin Kaymer (-24)
Thursday 26 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6am
Friday 27 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6am
Saturday 28 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 9am
Sunday 29 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8am
Martin Kaymer – It’s impossible to ignore the incredible past record of the German on this course. He’s recorded three victories and a runner-up in the last four years and last year he won by eight shots.
Retief Goosen – The South African was tied for third in this event last year and he lost out in a playoff for last week’s Volvo Champions tournament. If he can get the putter working this week, he could be a contender.
Charl Schwartzel – Another man who showed good form at last week’s Volvo Champions. He was in contention for much of the final round and eventually finished fifth. He posted a top-10 in this event last season.
Key hole: 18th. Played directly towards the iconic Falcon shaped clubhouse, the final hole is a par-5 that’s been extended to 567 yards this season. It’s still reachable in two for the longest hitters and that means the tournament could swing at the death.
Skills required: Beating Martin Kaymer. The German has been dominant around this layout since his first win in 2008. In that time he’s recorded three victories and a second place. Any player who beats Kaymer this week could well take the title.