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BlogAbu Dhabi Preview and Picks

Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

January 19th – 22nd, 2017

Abu Dhabi G.C.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Par: 72 / Yardage:

Purse: $2.9 million

with $446,557 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Rickie Fowler

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

27 players in the field are in the top-100 with 15 of the top-50 of the Latest Official World Rankings, with three top-10s in the field: #3 Dustin Johnson, #4 Henrik Stenson and #10 Alex Noren. The other top-50 in the field are #12 Danny Willett, #14 Rickie Fowler, #17 Branden Grace, #23 Tyrrell Hatton, #28 Rafael Cabrera Bello, #31 Matthew Fitzpatrick, #39 Chris Wood, #40 Bernd Wiesberger, #45 Lee Westwood, #46 Andy Sullivan, #49 Thomas Pieters and #50 Byeong Hun An

Last year 17 top-50 players were in the field

The field includes 15 of the Top-25 on the Race to Dubai standings for 2017.  Those players are #1 Sam Brazel, #2 Andrew Dodt, #3 Rafael Cabrera-Bello, #4 Graeme Storm, #9 Tommy Fleetwood, #11 Jordan L. Smith, #12 Thomas Aiken, #13 David Lipsky, #14 Paul Waring, #16 Danny Willett, #18 Brett Rumford, #20 Pablo Larrazabal, #22 Benjamin Hebert, #24 Alexander Bjork and #25 David Drysdale..

The field includes six of the eight past champions: Rickie Fowler (2016), Gary Stale (2015), Pablo Larrazabal (2014), Jamie Donaldson (2013), Robert Rock (2012) and Martin Kaymer (2011, ’10 & ’08).

 

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 Sony Open in Hawaii SBS T of Champions Hong Kong Alfred Dunhill Australian PGA DP World Dubai Nedbank Golf Challenge Turkish Airlines
Graeme Storm
(158.67 pts)
Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Branden Grace
(106.5 pts)
DNP T13
(37)
32
(18)
DNP T20
(10)
DNP T27
(11.5)
T3
(30)
DNP
Thomas Aiken
(102.67 pts)
T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP T32
(6)
T60
(0)
Jordan L Smith
(86.67 pts)
3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
David Drysdale
(84.33 pts)
T7
(55)
DNP DNP T39
(3.67)
T11
(13)
DNP DNP T49
(0.33)
T13
(12.33)
Matthew Fitzpatrick
(76 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(66)
T20
(10)
DNP
Tyrrell Hatton
(71.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 2
(50)
T25
(8.33)
T10
(13.33)
Victor Dubuisson
(71 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(40)
T3
(30)
T47
(1)
Bernd Wiesberger
(66.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(40)
DNP 4
(26.67)
Alexander Bjork
(66 pts)
T7
(55)
DNP DNP DNP T17
(11)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jeunghun Wang
(62.17 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T17
(16.5)
2
(33.33)
T13
(12.33)
Jaco Van Zyl
(61.17 pts)
T18
(32)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T25
(8.33)
T35
(7.5)
10
(13.33)
T72
(0)
Dustin Johnson
(60 pts)
DNP DNP T6
(60)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Thorbjorn Olesen
(59.5 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T60
(0)
DNP DNP T19
(15.5)
63
(0)
Win
(44)
Mikko Korhonen
(58 pts)
T7
(55)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T31
(6.33)
Alex Noren
(57.5 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T23
(13.5)
Win
(44)
DNP
Peter Uihlein
(51.67 pts)
T7
(55)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Nicolas Colsaerts
(46.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(40)
T37
(4.33)
T43
(2.33)
Ricardo Gouveia
(44.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T46
(2)
T3
(30)
T13
(12.33)
Alejandro Canizares
(44.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T40
(5)
T3
(30)
T22
(9.33)
Tommy Fleetwood
(43.83 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T9
(22.5)
T14
(12)
T22
(9.33)
David Horsey
(43.83 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(18.5)
T44
(2)
T2
(33.33)
Byeong Hun An
(42.5 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP DNP T13
(18.5)
DNP T10
(13.33)
Romain Langasque
(42.33 pts)
T21
(29)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Jorge Campillo
(42.17 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T24
(8.67)
DNP DNP T9
(22.5)
T67
(0)
T17
(11)

How Player Rankings are Computed

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

Player South African Open Sony Open in Hawaii SBS T of Champions Hong Kong Alfred Dunhill Australian PGA DP World Dubai Nedbank Golf Challenge Turkish Airlines
Duncan Stewart
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Sam Walker
(-13.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Darren Clarke
(-13.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Eddie Pepperell
(-13.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Haydn Porteous
(-13.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T72
(0)
Nino Bertasio
(-11 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T43
(2.33)
Lee Slattery
(-10 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 70
(0)
T52
(0)
Jamie Donaldson
(-10 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Marcel Siem
(-6.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T39
(3.67)
T74
(0)
Nathan Holman
(-5 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
T62
(0)

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 pretty 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.

Unfortunately the tournament got a big blow on Monday when Rory McIlroy had to withdraw because of a rib injury.  It seemed that on Friday morning McIlroy woke up with a painful back.  He took anti-inflammatory drugs to control the pain and taped up the area and played over the weekend realizing that the injury wasn’t a serious back problem.  He lost a playoff to Graeme Storm and hoped on a plane for Dubai for an MRI.  McIlroy underwent a scan on Monday morning and was diagnosed with a stress fracture to a rib. No timetable has been given for his return, hopefully he will be able to play in Dubai in two weeks.

Despite the loss of McIlroy, the field is good with three of last year’s major championship winners Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson. The field also has two former world number ones, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, along with defending champion Rickie Fowler.  The field also boasts seven Major Champions, 80 European Tour winners, four European Tour Number Ones and two World Number Ones.

Still you wonder if the luster of the desert swing isn’t wearing out when you realize that top players off the Race to Dubai race like Brandon Stone and Richard Sterne took a pass, but how about European standouts Francesco Molinari and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano taking a pass to play in the CareerBuilder instead.  A show of the times on the European Tour.

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 11 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 the players will find a few new strategically positioned bunkers and a new 18th tee, which has been elevated to the left of the old tee and gives a new and more challenging perspective to the closing par five.

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Abu Dhabi G.C.:

Key stat for the winner:

  • In looking at the stats of the winners the last six years, what sticks out as very important is hitting lot’s of greens.  Kaymer was T-1st in that stat in 2011 and every winner since 2009 except for Kaymer in 2010 and Pablo Larrazabal in 2015 finished in the top-12 in that category.  Last year Rickie Fowler was T-10th.
  • Also important to look for length, since this is a desert course and will play firm, players that hit it far will have an advantage along with guys that play well in the desert.

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

  • Interesting to see how well all of the champions since 2009 has done on the par 3s.  2015 champion Pablo Larrazabal was 7 under on them, all of the winners since 2009 have played them under par.  Unfortunately last year’s winner Rickie Fowler broke the streak playing the par 3s in one over.
  • 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..
  • In the 11 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 eleven year history of this event Paul Casey has won it twice and Martin Kaymer won it three times, horses for courses.  Unfortunately Casey hasn’t played in this event since 2014.
  • Guess what the weather is going to be?  Easy, it’s going to be perfect with tempertures in the mid to high 70s and no rain.  Wind will be low, the worst day is Sunday with winds of 11 mph.
  • One last thing, it’s easy to say that Dustin Johnson will win.  His driver will give him a big advantage as he can overpower the course.  But a case in point, yes Johnson has won in places like China at the WGC-HSBC Champions, but this is his first visit to the area and who knows what will happen.  His game wasn’t sharp at Kapalua and with all of the travel and possible jet-lag, I would not rate Johnson a lock.  Also look at some of the champions in this event, guys like Gary Stal, Pablo Larrazabal and Robert Rock were not consider “favorites” in the years they won so the point is don’t be surprised if the winner isn’t a marquee name.
  • But look at the last four winners, nobody would of predicted either last year’s winner Gary Stall, 2014 winner Pablo Larrazabal or 2012 winner Robert Rock.  Look at guys like Graeme Storm, who won last week in South Africa, or guys like Jordan L. Smith who was 3rd, Dean Burmester who finished 4th or David Drysdale who was T-5th to have just as much chance of winning as Johnson, Rickie and Henrik.
  • Also talking about jet-lag how about Brandan Grace getting world traveler of the month award.  At the beginning of the year Grace and his new wife Nieke made the 12,000 mile trek from South Africa to Maui.  The flight time was over 28 hours and it took four different planes to get there.  After finishing on Sunday night the Grace’s boarded a plane in Honolulu for the 28 hour trek to Abu Dhabi, arriving sometime Tuesday afternoon.  He won’t have to travel far in the coming weeks, he is playing down the road in Qatar and then Dubai, so he won’t have far to travel.  After all this travel, Grace won’t be high up on my picks for this week.

Who to watch for at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

Best Bets:

Dustin Johnson

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Has to be hands-down the favorite due to his length and the way he is playing.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T14 CUT T4 T23 T48 7 T43 T15

This could be his year to shine.

Rickie Fowler

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
Win T66

Showed a liking to the course, could do it again.

Best of the rest:

Henrik Stenson

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T3 CUT CUT T23 CUT T42 T21 CUT T2 8 2

Has played well on this course, with a pair of runner-ups and 3rd last year. The question is if he practiced over the holidays and is his game ready.

Joost Luiten

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T5 6 T6 T42 T23

Has played well at Abu Dhabi in his last three visits to the course.

Thomas Pieters

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
2 T4 CUT

Was runner-up last year and T-4th in 2015.

Martin Kaymer

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T16 3 T31 T6 CUT Win Win T2 Win CUT

Has a great record on this course, you know he will give you a good week.

Byeong Hun Ah

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Has played great in his two starts including T-5th last year.

Solid contenders

Graeme Storm

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT CUT CUT T64 T30 CUT CUT T15 CUT T20 T50

To think that he only retained his European Tour card thanks to Patrick Reed not playing in Turkey, but he is now a star and could do well this week after winning in South Africa last week.

Alex Noren

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T35 T37 T32 T61 T31 T43 CUT T11 CUT

Could be the next great player on the European Tour.

Thomas Aiken

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT T19 CUT T48 CUT T21 T55

Has played great of late, has never played well in Abu Dhabi but shouldn’t worry about it.

Trevor Fisher Jr

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T16

Was T-16th last year, guys game is shaping up.

Peter Uihlein

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT T31 CUT

Played well in South Africa, this is a course that is tailor made for his game.

Long shots that could come through:

Ian Poulter

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T14 CUT 2 T9 T10

Coming back from injury, guy is great value at 80 to one.

Sam Brazel

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Playing for the first time, he won in Hong Kong last month so who knows if his game is ready for the “desert swing”.

Jordan L. Smith

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Another Abu Dhabi rookie, he was 3rd in South Africa.

Dean Burmester

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Playing in Abu Dhabi for the first time and thanks to his 4th place finish in South Africa.

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