Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods make their season debuts this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the fourth event of the 2013 European Tour season.
They are joined by a whole host of quality golfers, including former world number one Martin Kaymer, current world number five Justin Rose and American Ryder Cup star Jason Dufner.
After all the furore surrounding McIlroy’s switch to Nike, the Ulsterman, and indeed Woods – who has been subjected to a barrage of questions about the 23-year-old – will be looking forward to playing some competitive golf.
The host venue for this week’s tournament is the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, a 7,600-yard course that will suit longer, straight hitters. The quick greens are firmer this year so playing approaches from the short grass is key.
Robert Rock won last year in one of the stories of 2012, with McIlroy, the man who lost out by one shot, the 4/1 favourite with Ladbrokes this time around.
No one would be surprised to see him or Woods win this week, but it is worth looking elsewhere for better value.
Justin Rose, at 14/1 with Ladbrokes, is a decent price. The world number five seems to be in contention most weeks nowadays and will be fully refreshed after a relatively long off-season. His penultimate tournament in 2012 was in the Middle East at the DP World Tour Championship, where he shot a closing course-record 62 en route to a second-place finish. Rose led the PGA and European tours in Greens in Regulation last season, and only two players hit a higher percentage of fairways. The Englishman is also a good putter on fast greens.
Paul Casey, at 25/1 with Ladbrokes, simply has to be backed this week. Casey struggled in 2012 but recorded four top-10 finishes at the end of the year, and I’m convinced he’ll return to the winner’s circle sooner rather than later. He showed glimpses last week in South Africa and will be relishing a return to the Abu Dhabi Championship, a tournament he won in both 2007 and 2009.
George Coetzee, at 40/1 with Ladbrokes, looks well price this week. The South African is supremely talented and it will only be a matter of time before he records his first European Tour victory. Coetzee has a good record in the desert and finished sixth in this tournament last season. He played some fine golf at the back end of last season so he should be very confident as he starts 2013, and his length off the tee will be an advantage around this golf course.
Scott Jamieson, at 66/1 with Ladbrokes, is a generous price this week, and is one of the form golfers in the word game. He won the Nelson Mandela Championship at the end of 2012, finished third at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and held a five-shot 54-hole lead last week at the Volvo Golf Champions. Granted, he went on to finish second, but his form is excellent, he currently leads the Race to Dubai and his record in the desert is very good.
Fellow Scot Marc Warren also looks well priced at 150/1 with Ladbrokes. The Scot has enjoyed a solid start to the 2013 campaign, finishing inside the top 30 at the Nelson Mandela and the Alfred Dunhill Championship. He shared the halfway lead with McIlroy and Luke Donald at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, and his long odds counteract his modest record in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship advised bets:
3pts each way on Justin Rose at 14/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Paul Casey at 25/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on George Coetzee at 40/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Scott Jamieson at 66/1 with Ladbrokes
1pt each way on Marc Warren at 150/1 with Ladbrokes