Congratulations Luke Donald! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Chinese New Year and the briefest of mentions of all the other good things worth celebrating since the last Race to Dubai post back in mid December last year.
It seems so long ago but we can confirm we are well rested, well watered and counting with more fingers than Paul Daniels can, know that the quantity of Quality Street tins consumed confirms we have also been well fed.
And, so back to work…
Race to Dubai: Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
Date: 26th – 29th January 2012
We have arrived at the fourth event in the 2012 Race to Dubai calendar and after a few warming-up weeks in the glorious Southern Hemisphere and specifically three fabulous golfing locations in South Africa. This week, all eyes head to the desert and the real start of the Greatest Show on Earth – it’s the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Raising the curtain on the seventh star studded visit to the Middle East demonstrating the true international allure of the DP World Tour Championship.
Venue: Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Abu Dhabi, UAE
An oasis of tranquility carved out of the desert, Abu Dhabi Golf Club offers one of the most luxurious golf resort experiences in the Middle East. Its par-72, 7,334-yard Championship course provides a tough-but-fair challenge with 18 holes of lush fairways, strategically placed bunkers and generous greens.
Overlooking the golf course is the impressive clubhouse, built in the shape of a nazi-esque falcon with its wings outstretched. As you look across the lakes from the far end of the course, the Clubhouse somewhat dominates the scene not least providing a frightening backdrop at the business end of your round at the testing 567 yard par 5 18th.
Yards: 7,334 yards
Par: Par 72
Three current reigning Major Champions head the 2012 line-up, with Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel (30/1 – Bet365), US Open Champion Rory McIlroy (7/1 at Ladbrokes) and Open Champion Darren Clarke (237/1 with Betfair) all competing for the lion’s share of the US$2.7 million prize fund at Abu Dhabi Golf Club where a cheque for 450,000 Euros awaits the Winner.
The trio will be joined by World Number One Luke Donald (14/1 at Ladbrokes) and three other players that have reached the summit of the sport’s rankings: golfer of the month for November/December Martin Kaymer (another 7/1 at Ladbrokes), the defending champion and three-time Falcon trophy Winner, Englishman Lee Westwood (64/5 at Betfair), and Abu Dhabi’s biggest debutant, sucked in by the mere mention of a “swing in the desert”; one Tiger Woods of America (9/1 at Ladbrokes), a 14-time Major Champion.
The field also comprises those at (long) odds with themselves including SSP Chowrasia (at 1,250/1 with Bet365), Stuart Fee (at 2,500/1 with Ladbrokes) and Ahmed Al Musharrekh (5,000/1 with SkyBet). And oh – how the mighty fall! While you are at it observe former Open Champion Todd Hamilton (at 1,000/1 with Bet365)
After three “home events” it is the South Africans who cannot be overlooked as they have all been on form and have all been in contention – especially the new boy on the scene – Brandon Grace (61/1 at Betfair). Only the second player ever to follow their first Tour win with another culminating in two wins and a 14th place from three events since January. That’s the tour card secured; daylight already in the Race to Dubai and you would be hard pushed not to see him at the DP World Tour Championships in December!! How’s that for a start to the year for you?
Then we have the young brigade who are made up of Matteo Mannesaro (208/1 at Betfair) and Tom Lewis (151/1 also Betfair) who have proven their credentials with three tour wins last year between them with Lewis’ coming on only his third outing as a pro!
Don’t overlook Lawrie (275/1 with Betfair) – who finished the season so strongly at the Dubai World Championship in December securing a career best top 20 Race to Dubai finish – and Westwood – who’s deadly pre-Christmas form meant two wins in three outings and the retaking of the vital World Number 2 spot from Rors.
Rusty by his own admission, but with a stunning victory in December in these very climes, and with plenty of time to take a good hard look at himself after a largely disappointing 2011 season (until the last outing!) its Alvaro Quiros (33/1 at William Hill) who provides offers of hope, huge distance and excitement on the course – if he stays within its boundaries.
If he has come half way around the world with offers of romantic liaisons and late evening trysts in the desert, then I am afraid he will be sourly disappointed. But on matters golf, and even without a proper win (only winning his own invitational event met the mark in 2011) since 2009, it’s a certain Eldrick Tiger Woods (9/1 at Ladbrokes) that generates interest in the event, excites the players and confirming via Twitter (as he did) that he is fit and ready to play, makes watching this event an absolute requirement.
The son of a green keeper – which in my book, means they can really play golf (and I mean really play!) – Robert Karllson (59/1 at Betdaq) likes golf, Gulf style having won the Dubai World Championship and the Qatar Masters in recent seasons. The Swedish beanpole is a consistent performer with a new found length in 2012. His new Adams Golf driver has apparently added 18 yards to his already decent distance with the long stick from the tee.
While denting his confidence from a bogey finish last weekend leaving him out of the play off – young gun Nicolas Colsaerts (75/1 at Betfair) looks set to quickly shake the badness off with more consistent golf that saw a very steady season and his maiden Tour victory in 2011. A better and more steady golfer in every way – distance, putting, putts per round and greater accuracy – it seems everyone is taking a leaf from Luke Donald’s book!