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Abu Dhabi betting preview
By David John Last updated: 18th January 2011
In-form Ian Poulter can improve on his second place 12 months ago in this week's Abu Dhabi Championship, says Dave John.
European golf has never had things so good and this week's Abu Dhabi Championship is a tournament organiser's dream come true.
Six of the world's top 10 and 11 of the world's top 20 come under orders and to cut a long story short, an elite field is likely to throw up an elite winner.
The event has been staged five times and there have been just three winners - Chris DiMarco followed by alternate victories for Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer.
And the depth of quality this week more than likely suggests this will be fought out by the big names again.
You can argue a solid case for a whole host of players but the two I favour most are Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy.
Taking them in turn, Poulter looks like a man on a mission as he makes his return to the Middle East.
His last visit to Dubai for the World Championship ended in farce when he dropped his ball on his marker to incur a penalty which handed the play-off and the title to Robert Karlsson.
A philosophical Poulter took the incident in his stride as he moved back across the Atlantic where he played well in Tiger's tournament before winning the Shark Shootout with Dustin Johnson.
After his break for Christmas, Poulter was straight back in the groove at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and another very creditable performance saw him claim a tie for sixth place.
But I get the feeling that this is the event where he could reach a peak.
He had a fantastic duel with Kaymer over the closing 18 holes last year and it was only up the par five 18th where Poulter gave best to the brilliant German.
"I am pretty frustrated I have walked away shooting that score (66) and not won," he said afterwards having gone down by a solitary stroke.
He has yet to finish worse than a tie for 10th in Abu Dhabi and with his game in such good shape at the moment, the confident Poulter looks in the mood to go one better than 12 months ago.
Following McIlroy is becoming a habit but I am convinced he will win one of these upcoming events in the desert.
Like Poulter, he has a great record in Abu Dhabi (T11-T5-3) from three starts and admitted before the start of the event last year that "this golf course really sets up well for me."
The Middle East remains the destination of his one European Tour victory to date and surely it is only a question of when, not if, that he goes in again in the region.
He has spent the build-up practising in Dubai and like Poulter, should be raring to go having decided he is better off plying his trade on the European Tour rather than in the USA.
It is impossible to deny the claims of world number one Lee Westwood, in-form Graeme McDowell with his new clubs while it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Kaymer and a fit-again Casey could rack up title number three.
South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel both come here in winning form while Phil Mickelson's price of 25/1 could look pretty big if he gets everything together.
So pay your money and take your choice but it is Poulter and McIlroy for me from the front rank.
At a slightly bigger price, Spain's Alvaro Quiros is not far off a seat on the top table and he can go well at 40/1.
A longish course with the sun on his back suits Quiros down to the ground and he is another player who has built up an excellent record in the desert with numerous efforts in the frame and a victory in Qatar.
His last outing on the European Tour was a third behind Karlsson and Poulter in Dubai at the end of November after which he said he was off to the gym during the off-season to workout and prepare for 2011.
His form in Abu Dhabi has improved ( T50-T17-T26-T11) over the years and I anticipate a fast start from him to the new year as he battles oit out against this calibre of rival.
It is tough to see an upset win, but if there is to be a big-priced runner to hit the frame it could Stephen Gallacher.
The Scot was good enough to win the Dunhill Links Championship in 2004 but rather disappeared off the radar and spent a couple of years in the doldrums.
He was then troubled by illness in 2009 but last season saw a resurgence in form with a handful of good finishes on the way to 26th in the Race To Dubai.
His fourth place in the BMW Championship at Wentworth shows he is up to competing in this sort of company and he revealed in a recent interview that he has recaptured his thirst for the game.
"I want to get back to how I was in 2004 and that mentality of trying to win all the time.
"I'd also love to represent Scotland in the World Cup and I'd love to get into the top 50 in the world - so there's a lot at stake this year."
A decent finish would be an ideal start in his quest and he looks a player worth following over this portion of the European Tour - he may not be anywhere near 200/1 next week.
2pts e.w. Ian Poulter at 16/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 general). It top form currently and motivated to go one better than last year.
1.5pts e.w. Rory McIlroy at 11/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 general). Looks ready to make a fast start to the new year and loves this course.
1pt e.w. Alvaro Quiros at 40/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Paddy Power, Coral, Stan James). Has ideal conditions and can rise to the challenge in this company.
1pt e.w. Stephen Gallacher at 200/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 bet365). Starts to 2011 in the right frame of mind and can get in the shake-up.
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