The European Tour kicks off its 2019 season in usual fashion with the Middle Eastern swing, stopping first at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the Abu Dhabi Championship.
After an eight week break, this year’s event should be especially exciting as it has been promoted to one of the European Tour’s landmark Rolex Series events. The prize fund has therefore more than doubled from €3 million to €7 million, with plenty of World Ranking points up for grabs.
The main focus this week will be on Tommy Fleetwood. Although he is joined by a whole host of world class players seeking to start the year off with a bang.
Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s 7,600, par 72 golf course has a reputation as one of the best-conditioned on Tour, with greens which are set to roll past 12 on the stimpmeter once the tournament gets underway.
With water hazards on 10 holes, deceivingly narrow fairways, thick and awkward ryegrass rough, and breezy conditions later in the week, players will have to be at their best if they want to mount a serious challenge for the Falcon Trophy.
28 year-old Englishman and reigning champion Tommy Fleetwood has established himself as a household name in the last couple of years, with both his own performances and Ryder Cup involvement. He will be looking to capture a third consecutive title at this event.
The star-studded field features players from all over the world, including PGA Tour player of the Year and World Number 2 Brooks Koepka, as well as Dustin Johnson who has finishes of 9th and 2nd in his two appearances here.
Henrik Stenson and Tyrrell Hatton, two of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes from Paris in September, are starting their year this week and will be looking to build on consistent previous course form to go one better.
Finally, in Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell, Europe has two players who are keen to keep proving why they should be serious candidates for Padraig Harrington’s team for Whistling Straits in 2020. Wallace won 3 times last year whilst Pepperell clinched the British Masters in the Autumn, establishing themselves amongst the very best on the European Tour.
12 months ago Fleetwood triumphed by 2 shots over Ross Fisher, firing a final round 65 to hold off a host of other European challengers including Rory McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.
Fleetwood will have his work cut out to complete the ‘Three-peat’ against such a strong field with scoring set to be excellent, but he seems to thrive under pressure and hasn’t disappointed us yet on the biggest stage.
Do you think he can win this week? Who are you tipping? Let us know what you think!