Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth will do battle in the desert this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson are also in the field.
The European Tour travels to the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. It’s the first of three straight tournaments in the Gulf States with the Qatar Masters and Dubai Desert Classic to follow.
Although McIlroy and Spieth headline in Abu Dhabi this week, an extremely strong field has assembled to challenge the European and World Number 1s. Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer will fly the flag for Europe, while Rickie Fowler of the USA is also on the start sheet.
In total there are eight Major champions in the field at Abu Dhabi Golf club, along with 87 former European Tour winners and five men who have reached Number 1 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
First contested in 2006, this is an event that was dominated by two players in the tournament’s early years – Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey. The Englishman won in 2007 and 2009 while the German has been the champion three times – 2008, 2010 and 2011. Last year Kaymer looked set to make it victory number four, carrying a sizeable lead into the final round. But he fell apart on the Sunday and closed with a 75. Frenchman Gary Stal took full advantage and claimed a one-stroke victory over Rory McIlroy.
Rory McIlroy on becoming a champion:
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 now 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 21-24
Course stats: par 72, 7,600 yards
Defending Champion: Gary Stal (-19)
Thursday 21– Sky Sports 4 from 3.30am
Friday 22 – Sky Sports 4 from 7am
Saturday 23 – Sky Sports 4 from 9am
Sunday 24 – Sky Sports 4 from 8am
There are obvious favourites this week as McIlroy and Spieth headline. Who might challenge them for the title?
Martin Kaymer – He’s a real Abu Dhabi specialist and will be keen to make amends for his collapse last year. He’s won here three times and also has second and third place finishes to his name.
Victor Dubuisson – The Frenchman was fourth in this event last year and he’s on good form – tied fourth in the Nedbank last month and undefeated in the EurAsia Cup.
Branden Grace – The South African’s last four starts on the European Tour have been: 3rd, 8th, 4th and 4th. He’s an extremely consistent player and has proved he has the game to challenge the very best.
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.