Rory McIlroy and Graeme Storm provided a dramatic end to a wonderful first European Tour event of 2017 at the SA Open. But, for many people, the year really begins on the European Tour when the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship kicks off the Desert Swing.
The tournament organisers always go out of their way to ensure the strongest possible field assembles at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Everyone associated with the event was upset to see McIlroy pull out with a rib injury but we’ve still got Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and defending champion, Rickie Fowler to get excited about.
The championship course is a pretty typical layout for the area. At 7,600 yards, the par 72 is long but it’s also open to the desert winds which can so often whip up and it contains some tricky hazards. It’s much more than just a bomber’s paradise. The winner will have to plot their way around and hit the majority of greens in regulation.
Big Hitting Pieters Can Grab the Limelight
There aren’t many golfers in the world who rub their hands with delight when faced with a 7,600 yard course but Thomas Pieters is not most golfers. The Belgian went from promising up and comer to genuine European star last season thanks, largely, to his amazing Ryder Cup debut.
To ensure that he makes the most of his potential, Pieters must kick on this year. There’s a great deal of pressure on his shoulders but he’s shown he relishes a challenge. At odds of 25/1 with Bet365, Pieters can outshine the biggest names in the field to pick up the biggest win of his career so far.
Streaky Olesen To Fire At Big Odds
Thorbjorn Olesen is always a tricky player to back. The 27-year-old is anything but a consistent performer but on his day he is up there with the very best the European Tour has to offer.
Olesen displayed all of his quality at last year’s Turkish Open. The Dane hacked it home against a high quality field at a tough course and it could well be more of the same at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. He’s played well here before (his best finish was second in 2013) but if you are backing him you’ll have to overlook his most recent finishes which were fairly uninspiring. If Olesen hits top gear, he’ll quickly look very good value at 66/1 with Ladbrokes.
Wood’s Value Unquestionable
Chris Wood secured the biggest win of his career and a spot on Europe’s Ryder Cup team at Wentworth last season. The Bristolian has cracked the world’s top 50 and is now focusing on advancing even further up the rankings. In order for him to do that he’s going to have to challenge consistently on the European tour whilst making the most of any chances in America.
Wood’s had a considerable break (his last appearance was at the DP World Tour Championship), but that should help him overcome slight injury concerns. A player of Wood’s quality looks far too big at 80/1 with Coral.