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BlogAbu Dhabi Preview and Picks

Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

January 15 – 18, 2015

Abu Dhabi G.C.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Par: 72 / Yardage:

Purse: $3.4 Million

with $419,525 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Pablo Larrazabal

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 12 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with four top-10 in the field: #1 Rory McIlroy, #2 Henrik Stenson, #6 Justin Rose and #10 Rickie Fowler. The other top-50 in the field are #12 Martin Kaymer, #17 Victor Dubuisson, #24 Jamie Donaldson,  #26 Charl Schwartzel, #35 Thomas Bjorn,  #39 Miguel Angel Jimenez,  #47 Mikko Ilonen and #49 Danny Willett.

The field includes 12 of the Top-25 on the Race to Dubai standings for 2015.  Those players are #1 Danny Willett, #2 Ross Fisher, #6 Branden Grace, #8 Charl Schwartzel, #9 Miguel Angel Jimenez, #10 Andy Sullivan, #13 Andrew Johnston, #18 Tommy Fleetwood, #T19 George Coetzee, #T19 Pablo Larrazabal, #23 David Drysdale and T24 Dawie Van Der Walt.

The field includes five of the six past champions: Pablo Larrazabal (2014), Jamie Donaldson (2013), Robert Rock (2012), Martin Kaymer (2011, ’10 & ’08) and Chris DiMarco (2006).  Paul Casey, winner in 2007 & ’09 is only past champion not playing

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship field is our performance chart listed by average finish. One last way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship  in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

Player South African Open Alfred Dunhill Nedbank Challenge DP World, Dubai Turkish Airlines WGC-HSBC Champions BMW Masters ISPS Handa Perth Hong Kong
Danny Willett
(190.5 pts)
DNP T4
(53.33)
Win
(88)
T21
(14.5)
T4
(26.67)
DNP T21
(9.67)
WD
(-1.67)
DNP
Branden Grace
(167.17 pts)
T15
(35)
Win
(88)
DNP T9
(22.5)
T19
(10.33)
DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP DNP
Andy Sullivan
(166.5 pts)
Win
(132)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T21
(14.5)
T4
(26.67)
DNP T67
(0)
DNP DNP
Charl Schwartzel
(153.17 pts)
2
(100)
T26
(16)
T14
(24)
T47
(1.5)
DNP DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP
Ross Fisher
(112.33 pts)
DNP DNP 2
(66.67)
T42
(4)
T25
(8.33)
DNP T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP
Victor Dubuisson
(104.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(50)
T15
(11.67)
DNP T21
(9.67)
2
(33.33)
DNP
Thomas Aiken
(103.33 pts)
T5
(70)
T16
(22.67)
DNP T36
(7)
T64
(0)
DNP T39
(3.67)
DNP DNP
David Drysdale
(102.33 pts)
T11
(39)
T6
(40)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Henrik Stenson
(96 pts)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(66)
3
(30)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Alexander Levy
(77.67 pts)
DNP DNP T21
(19.33)
T26
(12)
T11
(13)
DNP T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP
Justin Rose
(76.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(50)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP
Gary Stal
(72.33 pts)
T5
(70)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
DNP
Thorbjorn Olesen
(70.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T12
(19)
72
(0)
DNP T28
(7.33)
Win
(44)
DNP
Miguel A. Jimenez
(67.33 pts)
DNP DNP 6
(40)
T42
(4)
T4
(26.67)
DNP 77
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Richard Sterne
(67.33 pts)
T20
(30)
T11
(26)
DNP T51
(0)
T60
(0)
DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP DNP
Ernie Els
(66.83 pts)
T20
(30)
DNP DNP T39
(5.5)
DNP DNP T26
(8)
DNP T5
(23.33)
Matthew Fitzpatrick
(63.33 pts)
T5
(70)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
James Morrison
(61.67 pts)
T15
(35)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
T56
(0)
Andrew Johnston
(60 pts)
DNP 3
(60)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Mark Foster
(56.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T68
(0)
DNP T69
(0)
3
(30)
4
(26.67)
Jamie Donaldson
(52.67 pts)
DNP DNP WD
(-3.33)
T12
(19)
T19
(10.33)
DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP
Tommy Fleetwood
(52.67 pts)
DNP DNP T14
(24)
T12
(19)
T32
(6)
DNP T39
(3.67)
DNP DNP
Lucas Bjerregaard
(50.67 pts)
DNP T49
(0.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
T5
(23.33)
Rory McIlroy
(50 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(50)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Raphael Jacquelin
(48.67 pts)
T13
(37)
DNP DNP DNP T55
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T9
(15)

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

Player South African Open Alfred Dunhill Nedbank Challenge DP World, Dubai Turkish Airlines WGC-HSBC Champions BMW Masters ISPS Handa Perth Hong Kong
Richard Finch
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Garth Mulroy
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jordi Garcia Pinto
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Oliver Farr
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jason Palmer
(-10 pts)
CUT
(-10)
74
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Sam Hutsby
(-10 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
David Horsey
(-8.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T36
(4.67)
DNP T71
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Steve Webster
(-6.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Oliver Wilson
(-6.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T55
(0)
T60
(0)
DNP T56
(0)
DNP DNP
Damien McGrane
(-6.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T40
(3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

A very important next three weeks for the European Tour it’s the desert swing, three weeks in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.  First this week is the Abu Dhabi Championship which is being held in one of the fastest growing cities in the world.  It also has a good field and is being played on a good course.  The importance of this event is to get the European Tour off to a great start and the next couple of weeks will have marquee names along with the best players in the world.

Unfortunely a couple of guys that have played here in the past are not in the field, notably Paul Casey who has won this twice.  Last year’s runner-up Phil Mickelson, who has played twice isn’t in the field along with Tiger Woods, who won’t be playing any of the desert swing events.  Some other key European players not here is Joost Luiten, who has finished sixth the last two years running, Thongchai Jaidee who has finished in the top-ten the last two years and Sergio Garcia.

Things on the European Tour has been a bit quiet with the retirement of European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady. There is a task force looking for his replacement and there is nothing but rumors.  People think it will be Keith Waters, the European Tour’s chief operating officer while others say it will be Guy Kinnings, who presently is the global head of golf for IMG.  No matter who, they will have to solve some big problems, getting more homegrown players not to defect to the PGA Tour and getting sponsorship that will pay more for events.

A couple of items of interest, the R&A is getting close to awarding the English television rights and many are speculating that after airing the British Open for over 60 years BBC could be out.  It’s not really a matter of money, it’s more a matter of does the R&A take the money of Sky Sports, who would do a much better job in the telecast.  The big problem with Sky since it’s a pay cable service and BBC is free over the airwaves, BBC has a 5 to 1 ratio of viewers so taking it away would drastically lower the viewership in England.  Tough call, some say the R&A is looking into pay TV, that would spilt the viewership somewhere in the middle.  I think that the R&A may give the production to Sky but have it viewed on both Sky and the BBC.  No matter what look for a change.  Lastly, the European Tour has to pick a new Ryder Cup captain for 2016, many thought that Miguel Angel Jimenez would be the choice but he still wants to play and isn’t ready to captain the team.  So by default it may go to Darren Clarke, look for a decision in the next couple of weeks.

Course Information – Abu Dhabi Golf Club

Part of a 27-hole club that was built and opened in 1998.  The course was designed by Peter Harradine. The course was carved straight out of the desert and requires about a half a million gallons of water a day to keep in shape.  The holes weaves through undulating terrain that features pockets of palms, ornamental trees and shrubs, as well as seven spectacular saltwater lakes. The course provides a tough but fair challenge, with lush fairways, water coming in play on 11 holes, 90 strategically placed bunkers and big greens which are Bermuda Tifdwarf.  Fairways are paspalum while the rough is Rye.

Since the course was first used 8 years ago, several changes are made each year with new tees adding more distance, bunkers have been changed and greens changed to add more challenging pin positions.  For this year some changes was the additional of bunkers at the 11th making the fairway harder to hit and the green more testing to hit.  The tee was also changed at 18, moving it to the left and raised by 15 feet.  This will bring the fairway bunkers more into play and make the hole more challenging.

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

Key stat for the winner:

In looking at the stats of the winners that last five years, what sticks out is how important hitting lot’s of greens are.  Kaymer was T1st in that stat in 2011 and every winner in last 6 years except for Kaymer in 2010 and Larrazabal last year finished in the top-ten in that category.  Pablo Larrazabal was the worst finishing T28th in that stat last year.

Here are some more key stats to look to for this week:

  • Martin Kaymer  mastered the par 4s, he was 10 under in 2010 and 14 under in 2011 and was ten under in 2010.  Last year’s champion Pablo Larrazabal again screwed up a great stat only playing the par 4s in even par in 2014.  So what was Larrazabal good out?  He has played the par 3 the best of any champion, he was 7 under on them last year and was T4th in number of putts with 107.
  • Length is always important as those in contention are high up in driving distance.  In looking at someone that has done well in that stat, Rory McIlroy got better each year in distance and finish as he was T5th in 2009, 3rd in 2010 and 2nd in 2011 and ’12.  Only problem, he missed the cut in 2013, but bounced back to finish T2nd last year leading the driving distance category with an average drive of 308.1 yards.
  • In the 9 years the tournament has been played only once has the champion shot over par.  That was Martin Kaymer in the final round of 2008 when he shot 74, but the wind was gusting up to 45 mph that day.
  • It’s very unique to think that in the nine year history of this event Paul Casey has won it twice and Martin Kaymer won it three times, horses for courses.

Who to watch for at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

Best Bets:

Rory McIlroy

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T2 CUT 2 2 3 T5 T11

This could be either a good pick or a disastrous pick. On paper he is playing the best of anyone, but as we saw two years ago he came unprepared, with new clubs and a lot of fanfare and missed the cut. I worry with all of these rumors of him being young and single and ready to mingle possibly being a problem, but if he learned something with his past relationship it’s you’ve got to work hard on your game. See him playing well.

Rickie Fowler

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
First time playing in this event

Is playing in this for the first time but he could be the most consistent player in the world right now. Since the U.S. Open he has played in 11 events and been in the top-ten, 10 times. So look for him to contend this week.

Martin Kaymer

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T31 T6 CUT Win Win T2 Win CUT

Three is no better of a crap shot than picking Kaymer. You just don’t know what you will get from him on any given occasion, specially in this event. His record of last is not that great, but he does have three wins and a runner-up so he has to be given a top choice.

Best of the rest:

Charl Schwartzel

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T17 T8 T34 T8

He should of won last week in South Africa, maybe he will make up for the loss this week.

Justin Rose

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T2

You always like having him in your field and you have to think he will play well. Has only played once and that was a T2nd in 2013 so you know he can play well on the course.

Henrik Stenson

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
CUT T23 CUT T42 T21 CUT T2 8 2

Another with a Jeckle and Hyde record in this event, still he has two runner-up finishes so he knows how to play well here.

Danny Willett

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T19 T23 CUT 69 CUT T8

Seems that his game has been coming around of late.

Solid contenders

George Coetzee

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T4 T9 T6

Has played well in this event the last three years, needs to bounce back after missing his last two cuts in South Africa.

Miguel Angel Jimenez

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
First time playing in this event

Despite being of senior age, you know he will play well and has shown that with three top-ten’s at this event.

Victor Dubuisson

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
CUT CUT

I know that he is two for two in missing the cut, still he could surprise all this week.

Branden Grace

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T52 5 CUT

Winner last month in South Africa, he did finish 5th in this event in 2013.

Long shots that could come through:

Matteo Manassero

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T31 T23 T6 T37 73

One of those that you least expect to do well, was T6th in 2012.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T4 T23 T48 7 T43 T15

Been good in this event with two top-tens.

Johan Carlsson

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
7

A good choice, young kid that can do some special things.

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
First time playing in this event

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