Abu Dhabi Delight For Kaymer Once Again
Abu Dhabi Championship
The top names in golf battle it out in Abu Dhabi this week for the much coveted $2.7 million prize fund…
The 2014 European Tour gets going this week with the first of three tournaments on the Desert Swing. With a prize fund of $2.7 million, this is the wealthiest of the Middle East events, although it is a more recent addition than the Qatar Masters and the Dubai Desert Classic. There’s no Phil Mickelson this year, but PGA star Rickie Fowler has made the trip, and most of the top European players will be involved.
Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s National Course was altered ahead of 2013’s event and is now one of the longest courses around. At over 7600 yards, it clearly favours the big hitters, although the narrow fairways and tricky rough mean that wayward tee shots are likely to be punished. The lightning fast greens have also been enlarged since 2012 and punters should be wary of backing those in poor touch with the putter.
In The Bunker
A new year is upon us, but we are faced with the same dilemma. Do we lump on Rory McIlroy at short odds? He’s the best player in the world, and this is an event in which he’s finished runner up in three of the last four editions. On the other hand, he hasn’t played since November so is entitled to be a little rusty. He came up short at 6/1 last season and at 4/1 this time round, I can’t back him.
He may have finished 2014 in patchy form, but on his day Martin Kaymer can be unbeatable, and his record in this event is far more impressive than the favourite’s.
His last seven visits to the Abu Dhabi Golf Club have produced five top five finishes, including victories in 2008, 2010 and 2011.
If he starts the year in any kind of form he will be a threat this week and at 12/1 he offers more value than Rory.
Charl Schwartzel finished 2014 poorly, but looked a lot sharper last week, playing three solid rounds at the South African Open. He let himself down on Sunday, carding a 74 and being pipped to the title by Andy Sullivan, but the evidence of the first three days suggested a return to form. He hasn’t played Abu Dhabi since 2012, but has two top tens in four appearances and is worth backing at 33/1.
Branden Grace also carded a poor final round at the South African Open and finished outside the top ten, but he was hitting form at the end of 2014, recording his first tournament win since 2012 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and I’m sticking with him this week. He does have some form on this course, finishing in the top five on his second attempt, in 2013 and I think he’s one for the shortlist at 40/1.