Outstanding field in Abu Dhabi
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2011 Abu Dhabi Golf Championship | Preview | 19 Jan 2011
Perhaps further emphasising the shift in power in world golf in the past twelve months, the relative field strengths of a European Tour event in Abu Dhabi in the Middle East and the Bob Hope Classic in California this week make for interesting reading.
Four of the world’s leading five players are in this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship while in La Quinta in California the leading world ranked player is Matt Kuchar at 13 followed by Tim Clark at 20.
This week’s tournament in Abu Dhabi is into its sixth year with Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey each having won twice and Chris DiMarco winning the inaugural staging of the event in 2006.
The tournament is the first of a lucrative four tournament swing in the Middle East, this event followed by the Volvo Golf Champions Tournament in Bahrain, the Qatar Masters in Doha and the Dubai Desert Classic in Dubai.
Kaymer has not played a tournament since the Dubai Championship in November but there is little doubt he was the big mover in the game in 2010 improving from 13th twelve months ago to third at year’s end. His record at the Peter Harradine designed layout is exemplary having won in 2008 and 2010 and finished runner-up in 2009. If Kaymer has been able to dust off the rust following his seven week break from tournament play then he should do well again.
Lee Westwood is the World Number One golfer and in his last competitive event he won the Nedbank Challenge by a huge margin. He has also done well enough in this event in the past having finished runner-up to Kaymer in 2008. Given his status in the game he will start as one of the favourites and deservedly so.
Everywhere you look in this strong line-up there is a potential winner. Ian Poulter was runner-up in this event last year and started the season well when 6th at Kapalua two weeks ago.
Louis Oosthuizen has played this event well in previous years and is in superb form following his victory at the recent Africa Open and third place finish at the South African Open. Oosthuizen has the advantage of recent tournament play over some of his higher ranked rivals.
Rory McIlroy finished 3rd in this event last year and finished off 2010 with several good finishes. McIlroy is at a point in his career where he could well replicate Kaymer’s 2010 performance in 2011.
Two time winner Paul Casey also finished off the 2010 season very well with a series of strong performances which included five top six in his last five events.
For the first time perhaps in his career, Mickelson starts his golfing year outside the United States. He is no doubt getting richly rewarded for doing so but that he is even in the Middle East is a change of direction for him and a welcome one for the golfing world.
Australasians in the field are Michael Campbell, Richard Green, Andrew Dodt, Danny Lee, Scott Strange, Rick Kulacz, Brett Rumford and Mark Brown.
There will be a lot of interest in just how Campbell performs. Late in 2010 his performances began to improve after spending time with Gold Coast based coach Gary Edwin. Given the depths his game has slipped to in recent times the encouraging signs Campbell displayed in events such as the Australian Masters and the Australian Open were heartening and he seems to have renewed enthusiasm.