Lowdown:
The European Tour begins its Middle Eastern Swing with the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. It’s the fifth running of the event and many of the world’s best players have travelled to the Emirate to battle it out around this excellent Peter Harradine designed layout.
The start sheet for this year’s championship makes impressive reading. Defending champion Martin Kaymer returns to the tournament that acted as springboard for his incredible 2010 season. After tasting victory in Abu Dhabi, he won three further titles including the USPGA Championship.
“Abu Dhabi was where I won my first European Tour event and it will always be a special venue for me,” said Kaymer who also claimed this title back in 2008.
The German will be joined in the field by the three other Major winners from 2010 – Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell.
The Northern Irishman goes into the week tied fourth on the Official World Golf Ranking – exactly level on points with Phil Mickelson.
Also teeing it up at Abu Dhabi Golf Club are, World Number 1 Lee Westwood, two-time winner of the event Paul Casey, three-time Major champions Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els, young superstars Rory McIlroy and Matteo Manassero and experienced campaigners Miguel Angel Jimenez and Colin Montgomerie. It promises to be quite a tournament.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and HSBC bank have entered into a five-year partnership with the tournament and, as a result, the prize fund for this year’s event has been increased by $500,000. It is now the richest tournament on the European Tour’s Desert Swing.

Venue:
Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Date: Jan 20-23
Course stats: par 72, 7,590 yards
Purse: €2,000,000
Defending Champion: Martin Kaymer (-21)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 20 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6am
Friday 21 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6am
Saturday 22 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 9am
Sunday 23 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8am

Player Watch:
Martin Kaymer – If ever there was a horse for this particular course, it’s the German sensation. He won in 2008, was tied second in 2009 and won again last year. It’s difficult to look past him this week.

Ian Poulter – The Englishman was runner-up in this event last year. This will be his first European Tour start of 2011 and he’ll be aiming to impress.

Graeme McDowell – The Golf Monthly columnist has continued his climb up the World Ranking and is now tied for fourth with Phil Mickelson. He was third in the recent Hyundai Tournament of Champions on the PGA Tour, closing with an impressive round of 62. He’s eager to put another significant victory on his CV.

Key hole: 18th. Played directly towards the iconic Falcon shaped clubhouse, the final hole is a par 5 of 557 yards. Reachable in two for the longest hitters, it means the tournament could swing at the death.

Skills required:
Power hitting. At over 7,500 yards the course favours the longer hitters. Kaymer won last year and in 2008 while Paul Casey took the title in 2007 and 2009 – both are renowned for their prodigious ball-striking.

Where next?

Previews: Bob Hope Classic

Equipment: Mizuno JPX800 driver launched

Courses: Top 100 Rankings 2010