A Look Ahead to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

January 16, 2017

- Grant Whittington

As one of the first titles of the new golf season, the HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi is always a popular date in the diaries of fans and players alike. As a result, the tournament usually produces some high quality performances and keenly-contested events, with last years’ instalment providing a relevant case in point.

While Rickie Fowler secured the title in 2016, he only managed to do so with a couple of moments of magic after yielding a three-shot lead at the turn. This allowed Thomas Pieters, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson to challenge on the back nine, at which point Fowler produced a stunning chip-shot on the 17th to restore a two-shot cushion and ultimately set-up a single stroke victory.

Who Are the Favourites This Time Around?

This year should also produce a tournament in keeping with recent history, with the 2016 U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson set to make his first appearance at the event. He will be joined by the defending champion Fowler, of course, along with other usual suspects including McIlroy, Stenson and Danny Willett.

While these players will perform as the headline acts, however, they will be joined by a support cast that adds depth and tremendous quality to the tournament. Although previous winner Tiger Woods is unlikely to feature, stars such Martin Kramer, Lee Westwood and Thomas Bjorn will be boarding the flight to Abu Dhabi, along with last season’s runner-up Pieters. This is a stellar line-up by anybodies standards, and one that makes it hard to predict a winner.

Although Pieters and Fowler will be fancied to repeat last season’s heroics, U.S. Open winner and Abu Dhabi debutant Johnson is the early HSBC Championship favourite. The man himself will be keen the sustain the momentum gained during his first major success in 2016, where he held off both Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth to reign supreme. Ulsterman McIlroy will also be hopeful of starting 2017 with a bang, as will the early Masters favourite Spieth (who made such an impact on the circuit last season).

The Bottom Line: Why is this Event So Important?

This event remains extremely important to the golfing calendar, and not only because it is the first headline tournament of the new season. As anyone who witnessed Fowler’s thrilling success last season will testify, the tournament is also one of the most keenly-contested and draws players from all over the world. Fowler even cites his 2016 success as the being a personal highlight from the last 12 months, along with his participation in the victorious, U.S. Ryder Cup team.

The popular and competitive nature of the event makes it difficult to call, although it is hard to look past the names we have already mentioned here. McIlroy is likely to feature heavily in the early betting, however, as despite enduring a frustrating 2016 (in which he failed to land a major title) he remains hungry for success and should start the New Year with renewed vigour. With this in mind, do not be surprised if it comes down to a final hole shoot-out between the Ulsterman and newcomer Johnson.

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