The 2017 Desert Swing gets underway this week with a stellar field assembled at Abu Dhabi Golf Club

Rickie Fowler Defends Abu Dhabi Golf Championship

It’s a big week on the European Tour as the 2017 Desert Swing gets under way at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

Last year Rickie Fowler won his second European Tour title in a dramatic closing day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club where he finished one clear of Thomas Pieters and two clear of Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy.

Fowler double-bogeyed the par-3 seventh hole before holing a stunning bunker shot for eagle on the 8th which came ninth in the European Tour’s shot of the year vote.

He then chipped in on the 17th for birdie before parring the last for victory.

The headline news for 2017 is that world number two Rory McIlroy will not play after pulling out with a rib injury.

McIlroy complained of back pain at last week’s South African Open before test results showed that he had suffered a stress fracture on his rib.

However, the field is still extremely strong with three of 2016’s major champions – Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson – all playing.

Also playing are world number 10 Alex Noren, last year’s runner up Thomas Pieters and three-time champion Martin Kaymer.

Golf Monthly are in Abu Dhabi this week:

Venue: Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Date: Jan 19-22
Course stats: par 72, 7,600 yards
Purse: $2,700,000
Defending Champion: Rickie Fowler (-16)

TV Coverage:

Thursday 19 -Sky Sports 4HD from 03:30, 11:00
Friday 20 – Sky Sports 4HD from 07:00
Saturday 21 – Sky Sports 4HD from 08:30
Sunday 22 – Sky Sports 4HD from 08:00

Player watch:

Dustin Johnson – The 2016 US Open champion ismaking his first start in Abu Dhabi and is also the highest ranked player in the field at world number three.

Henrik Stenson – The Swede and world number four makes his first start since the Hero World Challenge in December where he finished in second.

Martin Kaymer – The German won here in 2007, 2010 and 2011 and is looking to join Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods as four-time champions.

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.