Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship preview
Venue: Abu Dhabi GC, United Arab Emirates
Date: January 16-19, 2019
Course stats: Par 72, 7,583 yards
Purse: $7 million
Defending champion: Tommy Fleetwood (-22)
Weather forecast: Overcast to start the tournament but temperatures will be pleasant and range from 25 degrees on Wednesday to a cooler 19 degrees on Saturday. Calm during the opening round, as far as wind is concerned, they will get up to around 20mph as the tournament reaches a conclusion.
Wednesday: Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event, 3.30am, 11am
Thursday: Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event, 7am
Friday: Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event, 8am
Saturday: Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event, 7am.
Tommy Fleetwood aims to be come the first player to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship three times in a row and he’ll pick up a chunk more money this time if he can pull it off.
The Englishman beat Ross Fisher by two strokes 12 months ago but the prize pot has been elevated from $3 million to $7 million since. That’s because Abu Dhabi not only now kicks off the European Tour in 2019, it also starts the eight-event Rolex Series.
Has the prize boost helped the field? Rory McIlroy, who would traditionally play here and has seven top threes, has opted to stay away but the World No. 2 and 3, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, head both the field and the betting market.
They are the only top 10 players in the world rankings to show up, but much of the rest of the European Tour faithful are out in force.
You can require a snorkel if you’re not careful at Abu Dhabi GC. There are seven lakes on the course and water comes into play on around half the holes. With H2O featuring strongly on five of the last seven, and especially on the par 5 last, it can mean an exciting finish if the tournament is on the line.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship each-way betting tips
It’s usually clear cut for Thomas Pieters at Abu Dhabi GC – either miss the cut or finish planted in the top 5.
The Belgian was 5th to Fleetwood last year (and would have put up a much stronger challenge but for a final round 72) and was 2nd in 2016 and 4th in 2015.
In between, though, he hasn’t made the weekend and so it’s hard to predict what the big-hitting 26-year-old will do this week.
Much has been expected of Pieters after he won thee times on the European Tour before becoming the star of Europe’s ill-fated Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine in 2016.
He’s since become known as much for snapping clubs as contending in big events but he ended 2018 in fine style when teaming up with Thomas Detry to win the World Cup of Golf.
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) May 25, 2018
Let’s hope he can kick on from that and I’ll look at him to get into the frame at 25s.
At the end of last year, we asked a number of players who they thought their impact player would be on the European Tour this. Sam Horsfield was the near unanimous response.
Putting forward the Lake Nona resident this week is a bit of a stab in the dark as he’s making his first appearance in Abu Dhabi.
But the 22-year-old made huge strides in his first full season on tour – rising from contending strongly at the Tschawne Open to posting a top 10 at Walton Heath in the British Masters and following up with a similarly impressive display at the Turkish Airlines Open.
He’s a player I definitely want to keep on the right side of this year and I’m positive it won’t be long before he’s making odds of 140/1 look very silly indeed. At those prices, and with firms paying up to seven places, I’m prepared to take a chance and see what comes of it.
I’ve been guilty of chucking away money on Martin Kaymer (50/1) down the years and the German’s streakiness has been severely damaging to my bank balance.
I think of him more of a horses-for-courses kind of player these days and so I’ll always pay him a passing glance in the Dunhill Links Championship and here.
A winner three times in Abu Dhabi, the last in 2011, he’s still managed to finish 3rd in 2015 and 4th in 2017 despite everything else that’s going on in his game.
Ensconced in the top 30 12 months ago, I’ll have a very speculative punt at 50/1. Form watchers can at least look back to his top 5 at the Turkish Airlines Open for encouragement.
Others to note are Kiradech Aphibarnrat (50/1), fourth in Abu Dhabi in 2017, and top 10 in last season’s closing DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, as well as Bernd Wiesberger (125/1).
The Austrian has two top 10s here in the past and, having spent seven months of 2018 out with a wrist injury, was able to get back into the swing of things with three tournaments at the end of last year.
He gradually improved in each and with a further month to get into shape, and having come off some “productive” preparation in Dubai last week, could be an interesting price if he’s caught up with the pace.
So that’s who Steve thinks might make the frame. But who are his best bets for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship? Find out on the next page…