European Tour: Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Preview

Golfer admires shot

The European Tour is in the United Arab Emirates this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Damien Kayat previews:

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship | 16 - 19 January | Abu Dhabi Golf Club, UAE

The European Tour finally returns, looking to bathe in the afterglow of a brilliant Ryder Cup win in 2018. The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship has undergone a significant upgrade this season, elevated to the status of Rolex Series for the very first time. This has led to a marked hike in prize money. Chris DiMarco won the inaugural staging of this event as recently as 2006, making this just the 14th edition of this newly decorated European outing. It’s an event that seems to reward familiarity, with three men winning the event at least twice since its inception.

Abu Dhabi Golf Club was opened in 1998 and was designed by Peter Harradine. It is a typical desert course: it is a long, flat track that is heavily bunkered. It is fairly exposed and has relatively tight fairways. The fairways are Paspalum while the greens are Bermuda, measuring around 12.5 on the Stimp. Players will be looking to avoid the five lakes that lurk menacingly in this desert layout. Water is in play on nine holes, with particularly dramatic potential on the par five 18th. The rough is comprised of over-seeded rye grass, which typically makes it fairly punitive.

As I mentioned earlier, success on this course often breeds success. Paul Casey is a two-time winner while the imposing Martin Kaymer has claimed the title on three occasions. The revamped event has attracted the glamourous American pairing of Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. But in reality, I’m slightly disappointed at the broader field. Rory McIlroy- who has seven top three finishes in this event- has chosen to skip proceedings, meaning that Koepka and Johnson are the only members of the world’s top 10 in attendance. Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson will lead the European contingent, with Fleetwood looking to make it an unprecedented three-in-a-row.

Past Winners
2018: Tommy Fleetwood (/-22)
2017: Tommy Fleetwood (-17)
2016: Ricky Fowler (-16)
2015: Gary Stal (-19)
2014: Pablo Larrazabal (-14)

To Win Outright:
Dustin Johnson 11/2 | Brooks Koepka 10/1 | Tommy Fleetwood 10/1 | Henrik Stenson 16/1 | Louis Oosthuizen 18/1

Value Bets

Tyrell Hatton- To Win 22/1, To Place 48/10
Tyrell Hatton is one of the Ryder Cup heroes who has flown under the radar somewhat. Hatton claimed back-to-back titles in the autumn last season and has terrific consistency in this event. Over the course of the last five years, he finished inside the top 15 in four events. Hatton should also feel rejuvenated, having not competed in several months now. His last two competitive outings were a pair of decent 22nd place finishes. This was at the WGC HSBC Championship and the DP World Tour event. Hatton is a pure ball-striker with the ability to go exceptionally low when the opportunity presents itself.

Tom Lewis- To Win 66/1, To Place 14/1
Tom Lewis- much like compatriot Tommy Fleetwood- is a deceptively long driver with accuracy off the tee-box and surgical iron-play. Lewis experienced a resurgence last season, coming through successful Open qualifying whilst re-entering the winner’s circle. He tasted success on the Challenge Tour before claiming that extremely important title in Portugal. Lewis finished inside the top 25% of both shots-gained-approach and greens hit in regulation. These stats are crucial around this course. His course figures are abysmal, reading MC-61-45-MC-MC. But this is a very different Tom Lewis, with current form figures that read 1-3-1-10-14-67-7. He also happened to shoot 64 as a junior on this course almost a decade ago.

The Man to Beat- Thomas Pieters- To Win 20/1, To Place 44/10
I just have the feeling that the big-hitting Belgian is due a significant season on tour. Perhaps overly burdened by his rock-star status post-Hazeltine, Pieters has failed to hit the heights that his considerable talents suggest he should reach. Pieters has enjoyed some great success around this course, finishing fifth to Tommy Fleetwood last year. He also finished second in 2016 and fourth in 2015. Pieters also seemed to be finding his form towards the end of last season, claiming the World Cup of Golf alongside compatriot Thomas Detry. Pieters’ huge ball-striking abilities just need to be refined a smidge and he could become a regular contender in Major Championships.

Written by Damien Kayat for Hollywoodbets.

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