Formerly known as the European Tour, the current title of the DP World Tour is certainly more apt – particularly as many of the season’s events take place way outside European borders. Included amongst that number is this tournament which – when making its debut in 2006 – was one of only three Tour events to take place on the Arabian Peninsula. That number has since expanded, but this January event remains one of the most prestigious held in the Middle East.
Launching with a total prize pool of $2m, the tournament received a significant upgrade in 2019 when elevated to become part of the prestigious Rolex Series – seeing that total prize pool more than triple to $7m. If you put up that sort of money, the best players in the game will come, and unsurprisingly this event invariably boasts one of the strongest fields of the DP Tour season.
Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer would likely have appreciated a $7m prize pool in the early years of the event, with the duo splitting five of the first six editions between them. Held at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club between 2006 and 2021, 2022 saw a change in venue as the tournament relocated to the Yas Links Course on Yas Island.
|2023||Yas Links||Victor Perez|
|2022||Yas Links||Thomas Pieters|
2023: Victor Perez
The 2023 edition of this event produced a truly thrilling finale, with Frenchman Victor Perez just about holding on to claim a one-shot victory. The third DP World Tour success of the 30 year old’s career, this was also the biggest, as Perez became the first Frenchman to win a prestigious Rolex Series event. Collecting $1,530,000 for his week’s work, this win also sees Perez move into the projected cut for the Ryder Cup. This was an excellent result all around, but this win wasn’t without incident.
Beginning the day one shot off the lead, Perez rattled off four birdies in the space of the first seven holes to move two clear of the field. Briefly relinquishing the outright lead on the back nine, Perez rebounded to find himself one shot up with two to play – only to find the greenside bunker with his tee shot at the par-three 17th. Then came the key moment of his tournament, as Perez’s bunker shot pitched five feet past the pin, and spun back straight into the hole.
Two shots to the good headed to the 18th hole, the tournament was Perez’s to lose. The nerves did seem to be setting in as he found the sand from the tee and narrowly avoided going out of bounds with his second shot. However, in the end, a scrambled bogey was enough to see him hang on by one shot, with Min Woo Lee’s narrow Eagle miss at the last sealing the deal.
Min Woo Lee and Sebastian Soderberg shared second spot. Padraig Harrington saw his bid to become the oldest winner in the history of the DP World Tour come up just short as the 51 year old Irishman finished one shot back in fourth.
2022: Thomas Pieters
Thomas Pieters has been known for a long time as a golfer blessed with supreme talent but who doesn’t quite have the temperament to get the maximum out of his ability. That appears to be changing. A combination of age, experience and fatherhood have seen Pieters mellow on the golf course and that is having an excellent impact on his golf.
Pieters picked up his sixth European Tour win with victory in the 2022 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Not only was this the biggest win of his career to date – the Rolex Series event holds higher status than any of the tournaments he has previously won – but the skill he had to display in very testing desert conditions make this his best performance to date, eclipsing even his fourth place on debut at the Masters.
Several world-class players found the going far too tough as the wind picked up at Yas Links over the course of the tournament. While golf fans enjoyed the battle, the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tyrrell Hatton suggested that they won’t be returning to Abu Dhabi while the tournament remains at Yas Links. Thomas kept the moans and groans at bay, finishing with a varied set of scorecards that read 65-74-67-72 and added up to a one-shot victory from Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Shubhankar Sharma.