It's the first event of the European Tour season and, as always, there's a strong field in Abu Dhabi. Barry Plummer assesses the runners and riders

The European Tour 2021 season gets underway at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. There’s some field in the Emirates this week, including a certain World No 6 and another player hoping to make headlines for the right reasons. But who are we backing for glory? Read on…

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: The details

Venue: Abu Dhabi Golf Club, UAE

Date: January 21-24, 2021

Course stats: Par 72; 7,583 yards

Course summary: The National Course at ADGC is a flat and exposed desert track designed by Peter Harradine in 1998. The rough can be perilous here, but wind is the primary defence. The course presents generous Paspalum fairways and quick Bermuda greens that will test the players right from the off. Some desert experience is important here, and with this being a Rolex event the cream will almost certainly rise to the top.

Purse: €6.2 million

Defending champion: Lee Westwood (-19)

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: TV coverage

Thursday: Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 3.30am and again from 11am
Friday: Sky Sports Golf from 7am
Saturday: Sky Sports Golf from 8am
Sunday: Sky Sports Golf from 7am

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: Betting Tips

As we roll into 2021 and the PGA and European Tour seasons start to get into full flow I’m joined by NCG’s Steve Carroll for a brand new show called Dialled In.

You can either watch as a vodcast below or listen as a podcast from your preferred podcast provider…

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: Staking plan

Christiaan Bezuidenhout – 2pt e/w @ 28/1 with bet365

Bezuidenhout had arguably the best year of his career in 2020, winning twice back-to-back in South Africa. He then followed that up with an impressive display on a similar track in Dubai at the DP World Tour Championships, finishing T14 and extending his run to 17 consecutive under-par rounds of golf to end the season. That performance saw Bezuidenhout hit 70% of GIR and rank 7th for Driving Accuracy, two measures that will be key this week. On another Harradine course, at the Qatar Masters, Bezuidenhout was runner up in 2019 and if he can start the season in anywhere near the same form as he ended the last, he will have a great chance of winning this. 

Bernd Wiesberger – 2pt e/w @ 35/1 with bet365

Wiesberger finished 8th in this event 12 months ago and, in keeping with the trend, also finished 8th at the Golf in Dubai Championship in December before a respectable finish at the DP World Tour Championship. This course form at similar tracks all adds to his appeal, as does his most recent performance where he ranked in the top-25 for Driving Accuracy and GIR. This is clearly a strong area of his game at the moment, as he also ranked inside the top-15 for both measures on a recent jaunt to the States where he finished T4 at the RSM Classic. With a cocktail of strong recent form on both tours, and course form at correlating tracks dating back years, Wiesberger is a no-brainer each-way selection for me.

Andy Sullivan – 1.5pt e/w @ 40/1 with bet365

I ended last season tipping Sullivan, and I am going to start 2021 in the same fashion. Sullivan was electrifying for most of 2020, winning the English Championship along the way and ending the year ranked 1st for Stroke Average on the European Tour. Back-to-back top 10s in Dubai in December, including when runner-up at the Golf In Dubai Championship, demonstrates how comfortable he is playing on this type of track and I cannot look past his stats from those events. At the DP World Tour Championship, Sullivan ranked 19th for Driving Accuracy and 5th for GIR, somewhat mirroring his overall season figures. Sullivan finished 21st here last season, and after what has been his best season for a number of years he will surely improve this time around. 

Mike Lorenzo-Vera – 1pt e/w @ 60/1 with bet365

Lorenzo-Vera had a somewhat quieter year on the European Tour in 2020, playing just ten events. Impressively, in those 10 starts, Lorenzo-Vera managed a top 10 and a runner-up finish both of which came in Dubai. The Frenchman loves playing golf in this part of the world, with a 3rd place finish at the DP World in 2019 and a 13th place finish at the same venue in 2017. Lorenzo-Vera also has three top 10s in his last three visits to the Qatar Masters, another Harradine designed course, including when runner-up in 2019. Despite having never won a European Tour event, Lorenzo-Vera has often knocked on the door, with eight top-3 finishes in his career, and he represents excellent each-way value here. 

Adri Arnaus – 1pt e/w @ 70/1 with bet365

With three top 10s in his last five starts, and his best finish of the season coming in Dubai, I cannot ignore Arnaus this week. Perhaps the most important link I found when researching the Spaniard is that he won his only Challenge Tour title at a Harradine designed course. Arnaus also played brilliantly at the DP World Tour Championship, finishing 10th and ranking inside the top-15 for SG: Approach and Putts-per-GIR. He also finished 22nd here 12 months ago, and is starting to look like a real future-star, so I am happy to take him at this big price. 

For more prices, visit bet365.

Dialled In: Abu Dhabi Championship preview podcast