The DP World tour makes its 1st stop of the season to the middle east this week on unfamiliar grounds. A new course will host the 17th version of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship after the Abu Dhabi golf club was replaced with Yas Links. Yas Links sits in what is referred to as the entertainment district of Abu Dhabi sitting parallel to the formula 1 race circuit & a quick drive to Warner bros & Ferrari world. Players will have plenty to do after they finish their rounds of golf this week.
Covid cancelled the remaining events in South Africa at the back end of the year so this is only the 2nd event of the season. Tristan Lawrence leads the Race to Dubai after winning the shortened South Africa Open. Double Race to Dubai points are on offer this week & next with both events being Rolex series events. As per usual the bigger names are on the entry list for a Rolex event with Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy & Victor Hovland the star names. They will be looking to get an early win so that they can sit around the top again for much of the year like Hatton did last season, his win here put him top of the race & he wasn’t knocked off until Jon Rahm & Collin Morikawa picked up major wins & even with a few DP world starts last year he still finished 5th so an early win can do wonders for the end of year position.
The Yas Links will be new to many people this week. The course was built in 2010 & features rolling fairways very similar to UK links style courses. Kyle Phillips designed the course & it was awarded top 50 status in the best golf courses in the world last year ranking 48th. Kyle is one of the leading links designers in the world & that is shown this week. The Par 72 championship course measures over 7400 yards & is made up of four par 3s, ten par 4s & four par 5s. Water & strategically placed bunkers are in play on nearly every hole so accuracy off the tee will be key this week. The championship could be won & lost with a visit to the drop zone. Undulating greens will give the players a tough test on the greens especially getting the pace right to avoid any unwanted 3 putts. If the wind gets up which is due to all day Friday with up to 30mph forecast, we could see some very high scores posted if the players can’t control where their ball is going with all the hazards in play.
Rory McIlroy 7/1 Ladbrokes (boosted) 8 Places 2 Pts
Rory had a very up & down 2021 from the heartbreak in the Ryder cup to picking up two more PGA tour victories at the Wells Fargo & CJ Cup. He would probably still say he had an average year because of his major performances but by the average pro it was a fantastic year seven top 10s & two wins with just 4 cuts missed out of 24 events. Rorys form at the Abu Dhabi championship & following week at the desert classic is just ridiculous & pretty much the reason I have him this week at such as short number. In his last 18 appearance if you ignore the one missed cut in his last eighteen appearances at both events, he has finished no worse than eleventh. He has finished 2nd three times & three 3rd place finishes.
Tommy Fleetwood 22-1 Ladbrokes 8 Places
Some golf pundits seem to have written Tommy Fleetwood off last year after another winless year & dropping down to world no 40. He still managed six top 10s & only missed 3 cuts in 23 starts so he is still one of the most consistent players on the tour. Tommy is known for loving the previous course that held this event winning twice in 2017 & 2018. This week’s event should suit a player that loves the links & middle east golf which Tommy fits perfectly. He has plenty of top 5 finishes in the Dunhill links as well as Open Championship results so I feel this week he can combine his love for links & the middle east to really plot his way around this course & post some low numbers. Tommy consistency over the years can be put down to his green in regulation stats. For the last 5 years he’s has ranked no lower than 5th on tour for greens in regulation, his lowest average for the last 5 years was 72.39% & topped out at 76.49%. Stats he will be looking to keep at that level this week to go low.
Bernd Wiesberger 33-1 Skybet 7 Places
Bernd will be raring to push on this year after last year’s Ryder cup appearance. He will be able to play more freely now having for-filled a dream to play for team Europe. He led the DP World tour last year in strokes gained tee to green helped with a green in regulation percentage of 72.47% which shows incredible consistency. Bernd has great form in the desert finishing 2nd at fire course in the Aviv Championship, a 6th at the Dubai Desert Classic & in his two previous appearances at this event he has finished 25th & 8th. He had one win & four tops 10s last year so will be looking to build on that that this year
Nicolai Hojgaard 50-1 Ladbrokes 8 Places
Nicolai is one of the hottest players on the tour currently. He had a fantastic last part of the season picking up his 1st DP world tour victory at the Italian Open & then went on to a 2nd place in Portugal & 4th in the DP World Tour Finale. His rise last year can be put down to his greens in regulation stats which went from 62% in 2020 to 71.55% in 2021. Nearly 10% more greens hit in regulation. This helped him rise from 523rd in the world to a career best 88th. Nicolai will arrive here full of confidence after last season performance & want to really push on this year to climb the rankings.
Frederic Lacriox 150-1 Ladbrokes 8 Places
Frederic is one of the challenge tour graduates from 2021 who caught fire towards the end of the season finishing 2-4-28-5-2-5 in his last six starts of the year including the season opener in the shortened Joburg open where he finished T5 on tour debut. If the tournament wasn’t shortened, I feel he was in prime position to challenge for the win, he was hitting nearly 80% of greens in regulation, driving the ball over 320 yards on average & ranked in the top 40 for putting. He is one of the tour graduates I feel could pick up a win on the DP World tour this year, it might not be this week but at 150-1 with 8 places I’m happy to ride this one.
All Bets are 1 pt unless noted
Richard Bland 125-1
An incredible price considering the year he had, eight top 10s & his 1st victory. How will he knee hold up after surgery? Only time will tell.
Haotong Li 125-1
A player who has won me plenty over the years with wins & Places. Lost his way a little of the past year but looks to be trending in the right direction he was 2nd before Christmas in an unofficial China event before finishing 2nd in the Volvo Open & a very good performance last week on the PGA tour but how much will the mammoth travel day take out of him from Hawaii to Abu Dhabi?
All odds correct as of 14:30 Monday 17th January
Good Luck with all bets
Ryan Hamilton – @Golftipster5