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BlogAbu Dhabi Preview and Picks

Abu Dhabi Golf Championship

January 18th – 21st, 2018

Abu Dhabi G.C.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Par: 72 / Yardage: 7,583

Purse: $3 million

with $533,302 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Tommy Fleetwood

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

30 players in the field are in the top-100 of the Latest Official World Rankings

The field includes 15 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with three top-10s in the field: #1 Dustin Johnson, #6 Justin Rose and #9 Henrik Stenson. The other top-50 in the field are #11 Rory McIlroy, #14 Paul Casey, #15 Matt Kuchar, #17 Tyrrell Hatton, #18 Tommy Fleetwood, #21 Rafael Cabrera Bello, #28 Branden Grace, #30 Matthew Fitzpatrick, #31 Ross Fisher, #40 Thomas Pieters, #44 Bernd Wiesberger and #49 Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Last year 15 top-50 players were in the field

The field includes 12 of the Top-25 on the Race to Dubai standings for 2018.  Those players are #1 Wade Ormsby, #2 Dylan Frittelli, #3 Shubhankar Sharmam, #5 Chris Paisley, #T8 Alexander Bjork, T8 Rafael Cabrera-Bello, #12 Branden Grace, #14 James Morrison, #16 Tommy Fleetwood, #18 Scott Vincent, #21 Matthieu Pavon and #23 Jacques Kruyswijk .

The field includes seven of the nine different past champions: Tommy Fleetwood (2017), Gary Stale (2015), Pablo Larrazabal (2014), Jamie Donaldson (2013), Robert Rock (2012), Martin Kaymer (2011, ’10 & ’08) and Paul Casey (2009 & ’07).

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 Golf Championship

Player BMW SA Open Sentry Tournament of Champions Joburg Open Australian PGA Championship Hong Kong Open DP World, Dubai Nedbank Golf Challenge Turkish Airlines Open WGC-HSBC Champions
Dustin Johnson
(165.33 pts)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
Branden Grace
(165.17 pts)
2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T31
(9.5)
Win
(44)
DNP T15
(11.67)
Chris Paisley
(132.33 pts)
Win
(132)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T39
(3.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Justin Rose
(128 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(40)
DNP Win
(44)
Win
(44)
Dylan Frittelli
(111.33 pts)
T20
(30)
DNP T42
(5.33)
DNP DNP T4
(40)
T42
(2.67)
T2
(33.33)
DNP
Scott Vincent
(93.33 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP T30
(13.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Shubhankar Sharma
(88 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Kiradech Aphibarnrat
(81.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T2
(50)
T42
(2.67)
T6
(20)
T24
(8.67)
Jacques Kruyswijk
(80.67 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP T49
(0.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Darren Fichardt
(68.33 pts)
T7
(55)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(20)
DNP DNP
Matthew Fitzpatrick
(63.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 12
(19)
T8
(16.67)
T11
(13)
T9
(15)
Dean Burmester
(63.33 pts)
T54
(0)
DNP T19
(20.67)
DNP DNP T4
(40)
T42
(2.67)
61
(0)
DNP
Tyrrell Hatton
(59.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T8
(25)
T19
(10.33)
T16
(11.33)
T11
(13)
Jorge Campillo
(59.33 pts)
T12
(38)
DNP DNP DNP T24
(8.67)
DNP T27
(7.67)
T35
(5)
DNP
Renato Paratore
(55 pts)
T7
(55)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T60
(0)
T56
(0)
DNP
Matthieu Pavon
(54.83 pts)
T34
(16)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(18.5)
T19
(10.33)
T20
(10)
DNP
Richard Sterne
(53.83 pts)
T20
(30)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T31
(9.5)
T19
(10.33)
T54
(0)
T38
(4)
Thorbjorn Olesen
(49.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T60
(0)
T36
(7)
T12
(12.67)
T5
(23.33)
T31
(6.33)
Nacho Elvira
(47.33 pts)
T20
(30)
DNP DNP DNP T39
(3.67)
DNP T29
(7)
T30
(6.67)
DNP
Tommy Fleetwood
(46.83 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T21
(14.5)
T10
(13.33)
T23
(9)
T20
(10)
Martin Kaymer
(46.5 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T17
(16.5)
5
(23.33)
T30
(6.67)
DNP
Li Haotong
(45.5 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(18.5)
4
(26.67)
T66
(0)
T50
(0.33)
Rafael Cabrera-Bello
(40.5 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T60
(0)
T21
(14.5)
T42
(2.67)
DNP T5
(23.33)
Henrik Stenson
(38.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T35
(5)
T2
(33.33)
David Lipsky
(36 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T12
(12.67)
24
(13)
T42
(2.67)
T27
(7.67)
T58
(0)

How Player Rankings are Computed

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

Player BMW SA Open Sentry Tournament of Champions Joburg Open Australian PGA Championship Hong Kong Open DP World, Dubai Nedbank Golf Challenge Turkish Airlines Open WGC-HSBC Champions
Thomas Aiken
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Ashley Chesters
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Zander Lombard
(-13.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DQ
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Lasse Jensen
(-13.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Brandon Stone
(-10 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T66
(0)
T74
(0)
76
(0)
Trevor Immelman
(-10 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Ricardo Gouveia
(-10 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Edoardo Molinari
(-9 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T47
(1)
DNP T55
(0)
T56
(0)
DNP
Thomas Detry
(-8.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T45
(1.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Gary Stal
(-6.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T60
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz

A very important next two weeks for the European Tour it’s the desert swing.  There is a difference this year since Abu Dhabi joined the schedule in 2008, there have been three weeks of golf in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar in January.  Things are changing this year, with the addition of the Oman Open, Qatar will be played the week after with a month in between the two swings.  In a way, the scheduling is a bit of a mystery because common sense would dictate having four straight events in that part of the world.  Making things even more senseless, the Qatar Masters is the same week as the Honda Classic in Florida with the WGC-Mexico being played the following week.  So again common sense says that Qatar may not draw an outstanding field.  Guess we will just have to wait and see how this all plays out.

This week is the Abu Dhabi Championship, and it’s played in the fastest growing city in the world. It also has a pretty good field and is being played on a solid 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.  This week Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar, Tommy Fleetwood, Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson is in the field.  Next week in Dubai, McIlroy, Fleetwood, Poulter, and Stenson will be playing with Sergio Garcia, Pat Perez and Louis Oosthuizen.

The big news for the next two weeks is Rory McIlroy playing again.  Last year was a bust for him, after his rib injury in the first part of January he didn’t play again till March in Mexico and seemed to struggle all year. He did finish T-7th at the Masters and T-4th at the British Open, but missed the cut at the U.S. Open and was T-22nd at the PGA Championship.  Just like with Dustin Johnson after his injury before the Masters, McIlroy’s timing was off, and you can see how easy it is for a top-notch player like Johnson and McIlroy can play poorly.  Going into Abu Dhabi last year McIlroy was 2nd in the world rankings; now he has dropped to 11th.

Now McIlroy says he is changing.  He hasn’t played in close to 4 months and says he has thought a lot about his future and what it would take to make him the best golfer in the world.  In the course of the last couple of months he has changed his diet and is eating more healthier, and with that, he has rediscovered his appetite for competitive golf.  He has now changed his physical training and spending more time working on his game.  After his last start in Scotland at the end of September, him and his wife Erica went to Italy for a week, touring around the country in a 1950 Mercedes convertible.  He then spent the last two weeks in October and first three weeks of November in his home in Dubai and didn’t play much golf other than some light hitting some balls.  In that period he played just one round of golf.  He then went to his home in Florida for two weeks over Thanksgiving and after that started ramping up his game.  He spent the time up to Christmas in the snow of Northern Ireland, was in New York for Christmas and spent New Years at Ashford Castle in Ireland. On the fifth of January McIlroy went to Dubai and had been working on his game since.  But the critical thing for Rory is that he was tired after the summer and needed the three and a half months off just to reset his outlook on the game.  In that period he watched lots of golf and felt more hungry to play good golf again.

One thing that is going to be important for McIlroy, he plans on playing a full schedule, and that includes playing in eight events before the Masters.

So this week will be crucial for McIlroy to get off on the right foot as he wants to win again.  The one thing McIlroy doesn’t want to continue his not winning, 2017 was the first time that he went the whole year without a victory since his first win in 2009.

So this week will be exciting to have a healthy Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy again.

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 weave 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 into 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 12 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.  Last year the players found 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 unique and more challenging perspective to the closing par five.
  • For this year green extensions on holes seven and nine are the most notable changes — the seventh green has been extended increasing the putting surface. The ninth green has also been extended, again providing the opportunity for more challenging pin positions bringing the large greenside bunker into play.
  • Another small but notable amendment for 2017 is on the picturesque par-three fourth hole, where a slight change in the green contours adds to the degree of difficulty. Now a ball landing to the right of the pin risks feeding off the green and down the tightly mowed fringe to find the water hazard.

DraftKings Tips

Looking for some good picks at Abu Dhabi?

*Of the 126 in the field, 104 have played at least once at Abu Dhabi.

*Here are the players that have played in two or more Abu Dhabi’s and had the most under par totals since 2010:

  • Martin Kaymer is 92 under in 30 rounds playing 8 years
  • Rory McIlroy is 86 under in 26 rounds playing 7 years
  • Jamie Donaldson is 55 under in 28 rounds playing 7 years
  • Peter Hanson is 52 under par in 26 rounds playing 7 years
  • Rafael Cabrera-Bello is 51 under in 30 rounds playing 8 years
  • Pablo Larrazabal is 47 under in 28 rounds playing 8 years
  • Joost Luiten is 45 under in 24 rounds playing 6 years
  • George Coetzee is 44 under in 24 rounds playing 6 years
  • Branden Grace is 38 under in 22 rounds playing 6 years
  • Thomas Bjorn is 38 under in 26 rounds playing 7 years
  • Henrik Stenson is 35 under in 26 rounds playing 8 years
  • Tyrrell Hatton is 35 under in 16 rounds playing 4 years

*Here are the ones with the best under par totals averaging it per years played (2 or more starts)

  • Justin Rose is 25 under playing 2 years (-12.5)
  • Rory McIlroy is 86 under playing 7 years (-12.29)
  • Martin Kaymer is 92 under playing 8 years (-11.5)
  • Tyrrell Hatton is 35 under playing 4 years (-8.75)
  • Maximilian Kieffer is 33 under playing 4 years (-8.25)
  • Ian Poulter is 32 under playing 4 years (-8)
  • Jamie Donaldson is 55 under playing 7 years (-7.86)
  • Joost Luiten is 45 under playing 7 years (-7.5)
  • Peter Hanson is 52 under playing 6 years (-7.43)
  • George Coetzee is 44 under playing 7 years (-7.33)
  • Rafael Cabrera-Bello is 51 under playing 8 years (-6.38)
  • Branden Grace is 38 under playing 6 years (-6.33)
  • Brandon Stone is 12 under playing 2 years (-6)
  • Pablo Larrazabal is 47 under playing 8 years (-5.88)

Historical ParBreakers

Here is a look at those playing this week looking at those making the most eagles and birdies:

So it makes sense that the top players on this list are guys that will make lot’s of points this week

*Here are the guys that are very costly this week:

  • Dustin Johnson – $11,800
  • Rory McIlroy – $11,600
  • Justin Rose – $11,400
  • Henrik Stenson – $10,500
  • Paul Casey – $10,000
  • Branden Grace – $9,700
  • Tyrrell Hatton – $9,500
  • Tommy Fleetwood – $9,400
  • Martin Kaymer – $9,100
  • Matt Kuchar – $9,000

Usually, you would have to think twice about taking someone that is over $11,000. But in the case of the Abu Dhabi, I believe that most people will take either Dustin or Rory.  Both have excellent results, Rory is much better as Johnson only played once, finishing 2nd last year.  Now the question most will say is if Rory is ready.  As I wrote above, Rory took over three months off to recharge the batteries and is working hard on his game.  This is a toss up but you have to go with the guy that is hot, and that is Dustin.

As for Rose, Casey, Grace, and Fleetwood they are all good choices.  I would forget about Henrik, too many negative things coming out on him.  As for Tyrrell Hatton, he is good but not in the same class as the others.  You should dash away from Martin Kaymer, even with his excellent record in this event.  As for Kuchar I think it’s best to take a pass on him at $9,000

*Here are those players with costs between $7,500 and $8,900 that are worth the price:

The European Tour is a mystery for a lot of folks, one of the things they have about 30 outstanding players, but when you get to the bottom of the food chain, they don’t hold the same status as those on the PGA Tour.

As for guys in this price range you can’t go wrong with Pablo Larrazabal at $8,000.  He should be your first pick, a good bargain.

Now watch Draftkings for Peter Hanson showing up.  Right now he isn’t listed, even though he is playing and has been in the top-11 in his last five starts.

Byeong Hun An at $8,400 is also a great pick, he has been in the top-13 in all of his starts and is 33 under par with great offensive numbers averaging 5 birdies and eagles per round.  So don’t leave him off your team.  Joost Luiten at $7,800 is also a great buy; he has played well at Abu Dhabi.

Now on the high point is Rafael Cabrera-Bello at $8,800.  He will be in the top-25 so that he may be a bit expensive, but you never know when he will turn that around.

*Who are the “Bargains” out there?

Lot’s of great bargains, the best is Ian Poulter at $7,400.  He has done well in past events, and his offensive numbers are good at 4.50 birdies and eagles per round.  Lee Westwood is also a good buy, he won’t win but could give you a good finish.  The only thing to worry about his offensive numbers isn’t good at 3.13.  One guy with great offensive numbers is Lucas Bjerregaard at 4.50 birdies and eagles per round.  Now he only has made one cut in three times played but he ended the season strong, and I think he will play great this week.

I also like Eddie Pepperell, he is $7,400 and will make the cut.  Another good buy at $7,500 is Thomas Aiken; he finished T-13th last year.  I am also amazed that Edoardo Molinari can be picked at $7,200 and Thongchai Jaidee is a good buy at $6,800.

Also be careful, Bryson DeChambeau is listed at $7,300, but I can’t find him in the pairings.

 

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 lots 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.  In 2016 Rickie Fowler was T-10th, last year’s winner Tommy Fleetwood led the category hitting 66 of 72 greens.
  • 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 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.  Last year Fleetwood won playing the par 3s in 4 under.
  • Length is always essential 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 finished  T5th in 2009, 3rd in 2010 and 2nd in 2011 and ’12.
  • In the 12 years, the tournament has been played only once has a 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 unique to think that in the 12-year history of this event Paul Casey has won it twice and Martin Kaymer won it three times, horses for courses.  Both are playing, Casey hasn’t played since 2014.
  • Guess what the weather is going to be?  Easy, it’s going to be perfect with temperatures in the mid to high 70s and no rain.  But over the weekend wind will drive the players crazy, they are calling for up to 26 mph on Sunday so it will be very interesting.
  • One last thing, it’s easy to say that Dustin Johnson will win.  His driver will give him a significant 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, he also won at Kapalua thanks to his driver.  I can see a real battle between him and McIlroy this week.
  • But back to giving the trophy to Johnson 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.

Who to watch for at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship

Best Bets:

Dustin Johnson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T2

Is playing way too good right now, he will be very hard to beat.

Rory McIlroy

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T3 2 T2 CUT 2 2 3 T5 T11

Has done everything in this event except for winning. He has been runner-up four times and third, 3 times he knows how to play this course.

Paul Casey

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T65 T23 T18 T27 Win CUT Win T45

He also knows this course, he is looking to make the Ryder Cup team, a win here could make it an easy decision.

Best of the rest:

Tommy Fleetwood

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
Win CUT CUT T19 CUT CUT

Played great last year, look for him to be as good this year.

Pablo Larrazabal

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T2 T26 CUT Win T39 CUT T11 T43 T42

Another past champ that will play well this week, if he putts well he will be hard to beat.

Branden Grace

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T13 T5 T20 T52 5 CUT

Played great last week, comes to a course that he can do well on.

Tyrrell Hatton

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T13 T46 T6 T10

Another of those players that get better with time, a great ball striker should do well this week.

Byeong Hun An

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T13 T5 T12

Another of these quiet players that will play well this week and find a way to be in contention over the weekend.

Solid contenders

Peter Hanson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T8 T11 T10 T9 T35 CUT T11 T10 T43 T2 T61

Playing for the first time since Spain in October, he has a good record in this event and could do very well this week.

Ian Poulter

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T39 T14 CUT 2 T9 T10

This guy can surprise you anytime and I think he will contend either this week or next week in Dubai.

Joost Luiten

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T29 T5 6 T6 T42 T23

Been in the top-six in three of his last four starts.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T19 T14 CUT T4 T23 T48 7 T43 T15

Guy that can do well and surprise a lot of folks

Long shots that could come through:

Dylan Frittelli

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT

Be a good longshot, is playing good right now.

Dean Burmester

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
7

Another unheralded player that could surprise us this week.

Darren Fichardt

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT T70 T10 T32 T17

Was T-7th last week he played well in this event in 2014.

Just don’t think he is ready right now:

Henrik Stenson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T8 T3 CUT CUT T23 CUT T42 T21 CUT T2 8 2

We haven’t heard much from him getting hurt in China, played terrible in the Hero Challenge and even though his record is good in Abu Dhabi I just don’t think he will do well.

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