Three of the world’s top 10 will take to the course at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week.
The European Tour takes centre stage as the 12th edition of the tournament tees off at the regular Abu Dhabi Golf Club with some of the game’s biggest names, including the top decad’s Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Alex Noren.
Stenson begins his defence of the Race to Dubai title, having just been named Male Sports Athlete of the Year at the Swedish Sports Awards, at an event where he can boast no more than a runner-up finish. That said, he heads into this tournament on the back of a second place finish at the Hero World Challenge in December.
The current US Open champion, Johnson, finished one place below Stenson at the Hero World Challenge, but makes his maiden appearance here with 11 top 10 finishes, including three wins, in his last 14 starts behind him.
After an electric end to 2016, which saw four wins and a second place in 12 starts, Noren makes his first start in two months since his tied 23rd finish at the DP World Tour Championship. The Swede needs a run of high finishes to maintain his position inside the top world’s top 10.
World-number-two Rory McIlroy would have made it a quartet of starts from members of the top 10, and could have made an attempt at getting his maiden win here after four runner-up finishes, but for having to withdraw on Monday due to sustaining a broken rib.
All of the event’s past winners, bar two, will return to Abu Dhabi in attempt to add another victory to their collection. This includes, three-time winner and 24-under-par record holder, Martin Kaymer, and defending champion Rickie Fowler, who beat Thomas Pieters, also returning, by one shot and duo Stenson and McIlroy by two last year. Fowler hasn’t managed a win on tour since, but does hold nine top 10 finishes since and most recently a tied third finish at the Hero World Challenge alongside Johnson. Kaymer and Fowler are joined by other previous champions Gary Stal (2015), Pablo Larrazábal (2014), Jamie Donaldson (2013) and Robert Rock (2012).
Following his dramatic play-off win against McIlroy at the BMW South African Open last week, two months after all-but losing his European Tour card, Graeme Storm has the opportunity to make amends for his missed cut here last year. Finishing in third in South Africa, his best ever finish at a major tour event, 24-year-old Jordan L Smith knows another high finish in the Middle-East will continue to grow of his name.
The 12th installation of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be hosted by the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, managed by Troon Golf, for the 12th time. However, the par 72 course sees a few developments this year with numerous new bunkers and an altered tee on the par five 18th.
For the first time ever, the European Tour will introduce walk-on songs and range music to an event, which will only add the the excitement surrounding the star-studded field in the United Arab Emirates.