Abu Dhabi Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
Shane Lowry returns to the desert, where the most memorable year of his golfing life began with a victory at the Abu Dhabi Championship. The Irishman took this title 12 months ago and then went on to win The Open Championship at Royal Portrush and he is back to defend his crown in what is the first of eight Rolex Series events that feature in the 2020 Race to Dubai.
Unsurprisingly, Lowry is looking forward to the tournament. “I have amazing memories of my time in Abu Dhabi,” he said. "The manner in which I won the Falcon Trophy was a real catalyst for me and gave me a huge confidence boost going into 2019. I have no doubt about what an important part the victory in Abu Dhabi played in helping me go on to win The Open that summer. The course in Abu Dhabi is always in perfect condition and the fans create a great atmosphere, I can’t wait to get back there again to compete against so many of the world’s best players and, hopefully, defend my title.”
And Lowry is joined by a stellar cast, including Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and the colourful American Bryson DeChambeau. Lowry will be looking to record back-to-back wins at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club after his thrilling one-shot victory over South African Richard Sterne in January kick-started an unforgettable season for the Irishman. In his first European Tour triumph since 2015, the Falcon Trophy victory proved to be the turning point for Lowry, who famously went on to clinch his first Major victory in The Open Championship at Royal Portrush in July.
Two-time Abu Dhabi winner Tommy Fleetwood also returns, with the aim of becoming only the second person after Martin Kaymer (2008, 2010, 2011) to win the tournament three times. Fleetwood will be looking to build on his superb Rolex Series play-off victory in the 2019 Nedbank Golf Challenge and should feel confident of putting in a strong performance on a course he knows so well, having claimed consecutive victories in 2017 and 2018. He came within a whisker of winning the race to Dubai again last year and went through the entire season without missing a cut on either the PGA or European Tours.
Fleetwood said: “The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA is definitely one of the most popular tournaments amongst the players and a personal favourite of mine. Having won the Championship twice, I feel very at home on the National Course and I hope I can take advantage of that again in January. The crowds help create a very special vibe too with a great mix of local support and fans from all around the world and of all ages. I’ve grown to love playing in Abu Dhabi and I think that shows in my recent results, so fingers crossed I can get myself in contention again this year.”
A huge boost for the European Tour is the presence of world number one Brooks Koepka, who is looking to get his new campaign off to a winning start after being sidelined for three months with a knee injury that kept him out of the USA Presidents Cup team. Koepka can’t wait to prove his form and fitness. “It was great to return to Abu Dhabi last year for the first time since 2014,” he said. "Having last played there as a Challenge Tour graduate, I was able to return as a major champion and enjoy all the support of the amazing fans. I love getting back out there on the European Tour and I am delighted to be returning to Abu Dhabi this January. The tournament attracts many of the best players in the world, it’s on a world class course, has beautiful weather, so I think it is the perfect place to start the year after a longer than expected time away from the game due to injury.”
Ian Poulter, who finished tied sixth last year, said: “The Abu Dhabi Championship is a tournament I’ve really enjoyed playing. The weather is perfect, the hotels and restaurants are excellent, and the National Course is always in tip top condition. Over the years I have both come close to winning and missed by a mile which frustrated me as I definitely think this course suits me well and it is a title I would love to win. I was second in 2010 and then, after a few years of below average finishes, I was tied 6th for the 2019 Championship and, but for a final round 72, it could have been so much better so I am excited to get back out there in January.”
Sergio Garcia, 2017 Masters Champion, who ended a drought when he won the KLM Open in September, said: “I’m very excited to return to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It’s been great to be back in Abu Dhabi and now I can’t wait to return. I have missed playing the tournament recently so I am delighted to have it back in my schedule. With the fantastic conditions, world-class golf course, superb practice facilities and a super-strong field, it’s the perfect place to kick-off 2020.”
Having missed the tournament last year, Bryson DeChambeau returns to the iconic Abu Dhabi Golf Club with a point to prove. With five PGA Tour victories, DeChambeau will be eager to make his mark in the Middle East. If you haven’t seen the American for a while then you may be surprised at the difference in his appearance. He has taken a conscious decision to bulk up and has already put on the best part of an extra two stones. His thinking is that he doesn’t want to be left behind by the plethora of huge hitters who are now dominating the game. Time will tell whether DeChambeau has done the right thing. He has always done things his own way, but this seems to be a rather odd choice. Keep your eye on another American, Patrick Cantlay. He has become one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour and is a hugely impressive golfer with a fantastic temperament.
First staged in 2006, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is being hosted at the iconic Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the 15th consecutive year. As part of the Rolex Series, the tournament offers a prize fund of $7m and is one of the European Tour's eight premium tournaments. Victory here would go a long way towards securing the winner a place in Padraig Harrington’s European Ryder Cup team.
It was won in 2014 by Pablo Larrazabal, in 2015 by Gary Stal, in 2016 by Rickie Fowler, in 2017 and 2018 and last year by Lowry.
Abu Dhabi Championship Picks & Tips
Tommy Fleetwood. Loves this part of the world
Shane Lowry. Will be coming back with great memories
Sergio Garcia. Showed some fine form towards the end of last season
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Abu Dhabi Championship Fantasy Picks
Tommy Fleetwood. Would love to kick off the year with a victory
Shane Lowry. Has had one long party. Now it’s back to business
Sergio Garcia. Wants to let his golf do the talking this year
Ian Poulter. Ferocious competitor
Bryson DeChambeau. Golf’s most interesting character
Brooks Koepka. Shaking off the rust after injury
Patrick Cantlay. Brilliant young American
Bernd Wiesberger. Looking to kick on after sensational 2019
Danny Willett. Back where he belongs. Finally.
Matt Wallace. Absolutely determined to make the Ryder Cup
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