Damien Kayat previews the 2023 edition of the DP World Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship taking place at Yas Links.
2022/2023 DP World Tour
Abu Dhabi Championship
Yas Links, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
The DP World Tour’s Middle East swing continues this week with the 18th edition of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Fresh off the Hero Cup, the likes of Shane Lowry and Tyrell Hatton will be teeing it up at Yas Links.
There are also a raft of LIV practitioners desperately trying to bolster their waning world ranking points. This will be the first of two consecutive Rolex Series events (with the Dubai Desert Classic going ahead next week).
It will also be the second of four consecutive events during the traditional Middle East swing.
The Abu Dhabi Championship
The tournament underwent a significant facelift last year, abandoning Abu Dhabi Golf after 16 years of service. This will be the 2nd consecutive event held at Yas Links, a course considered the first true links course in the UAE.
Designed by Kyle Phillips, Yas Links only opened for business in March 2010. This is a true links test from the man behind Kingsbarnes. Built on a flat piece of land, this Paspalum grass par 72 has been shaped into a cascade of various dune formations.
Much like any traditional links, the difficulty of the course will greatly hinge on how the wind blows. Thomas Pieters was the only player last year to actually reach double figures under par.
It’s really hard to draw too many inferences from just one event. But I think it’s fair to look for traditionally strong links players and for players with form in the region.
The par five 18th is a real highlight, inviting players to cut a corner if they wish to hit the green in two. Also, the last six Rolex Series winners have all been Ryder Cuppers, highlighting how quality tends to rise to the top in these outings.
With the likes of McIlroy, Morikawa and Hovland choosing not to attend this year, there is a slightly diminished feel to proceedings. Tyrell Hatton will be desperate to get back in the winner’s circle this year.
He won seven times between October 2016 and January 2021. In fact, his victory here in 2021 was his last worldwide win. Pretty crazy.
Two other former champions feature prominently this week. Tommy Fleetwood won this event back-to-back in 2017 and 2018. He finished 2022 with three worldwide top fives in four events (including a victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge).
Shane Lowry has been in poor form and will be hoping to rejuvenate his fortunes at Yas. Defending champion Thomas Pieters is back to defend his title while the likes of Robert Macintyre and Ryan Fox lurk with intent.
2022: Thomas Pieters (-10)
2021: Tyrell Hatton (-18)
2020: Lee Westwood (-19)
2019: Shane Lowry (-18)
2018: Tommy Fleetwood (-22)
2017: Tommy Fleetwood (-17)
To Win Outright:
Tyrell Hatton 11/1 | Tommy Fleetwood 12/1 | Shane Lowry 14/1 | Alex Noren 18/1 | Thomas Pieters 22/1
Min Woo Lee- To Win 28/1 | To Place 6/1
Aussie Min Woo Lee is one of the most exciting talents in world golf. An often-mercurial talent, Lee started to find some real consistency towards the end of 2022. He ended the year with six consecutive top-12 finishes. That included back-to-back third-place finishes in Spain on the DP World Tour. Lee was the 36-hole leader at Valderrama. It showcased his ability to tame an extremely tough golf course, highlighting his growing maturity as a pro. He disappointed last year (finishing in 35th). But he did shoot a final round 67 and we know he loves links-style tests (his two wins came at the Vic Open and Scottish Open).
Haotong Li- To Win 140/1 | To Place 30/1
Haotong Li returned to the winner’s circle last year but otherwise had a season to forget. He closed the year with two sub-70 rounds in Dubai and his form in this region is exceptional. He has won the Dubai Desert Classic and finished second at the Saudi International. He has also shown some real affinity for links golf (finishing third at the 2017 Open Championship and fifth at the Dunhill Links). Haotong Li is too talented to remain in the golfing doldrums.
The Man to Beat- Tommy Fleetwood- To Win 12/1 | To Place 26/10
I really think that Tommy Fleetwood has what it takes to win his third Abu Dhabi title. Fleetwood seems to have rediscovered some of his best form and this could be a pivotal year for the Southport man. He finished in a tie for fourth at the CJ Cup before claiming that brilliant Nedbank title. He then finished in a tie for fifth at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship. He was poor here on debut (finishing way down the field in 48th). But the former Open Championship runner-up is an accomplished links operator who seems to be rediscovering his best form.