Golf365 Preview: The European Tour’s star-studded Middle East swing
With the European Tour resuming its 2018/19 schedule next week, Dave Tindall looks at the upcoming three-tournament Middle East swing.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
When: Wednesday January 16th to Saturday January 19th
Where: Abu Dhabi GC, United Arab Emirates
Prize money: $7,000,000
History: American Chris DiMarco was the winner of the inaugural event in 2006, shooting 20-under to beat Henrik Stenson by a shot with Sergio Garcia in third.
2018 -22 Tommy Fleetwood, -20 Ross Fisher, -18 Matt Fitzpatrick, Rory McIlroy
2017 -17 Tommy Fleetwood, -16 Dustin Johnson, Pablo Larrazabal
2016 -16 Rickie Fowler, -15 Thomas Pieters, -14 Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy
2015 -19 Gary Stal, -18 Rory McIlroy, -17 Pablo Martin Kaymer
2014 -14 Pablo Larrazabal, -13 Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson
Who’s playing this year?
Tommy Fleetwood is seeking a hat-trick of titles after winning for the last two years while Henrik Stenson continues his perfect attendance record by lining up in Abu Dhabi for the 14th straight year.
American big guns, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, also make the trip. DJ is here for a third crack after finishing runner-up on debut in 2017 and T9 last year. Koepka played the event for the only time back in 2014 but missed the cut after rounds of 77-73. That said, he was ranked 93rd in the world at the time. Now, he’s No.2.
There’s no Rory McIlroy though. He had an incredible record in the event – 3-3-2-2-MC-2-2-3-5-11 – but has chosen to focus on the PGA Tour this year.
Also taking part: Tyrrell Hatton, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Branden Grace, Lee Westwood, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thorbjorn Olesen, Eddie Pepperell, Haotong Li, Matt Wallace, Byeong Hun An.
What else? As usual, this tournament marks the start of the official European Tour fantasy game. It’s the same rules as last year. Pick six players and nominate a skipper whose earnings count double. And finally, note that the event runs Wednesday to Saturday so get those teams entered on time.
Dubai Desert Classic
When: Thursday January 24th to Sunday January 27th
Where: Emirates GC, United Arab Emirates
Prize money: $3,250,000
History: The original desert event, this is its 30th anniversary. Former European Ryder Cup skipper Mark James won the first one in 1989 and winners since include Seve Ballesteros, Ernie Els, Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Thomas Bjorn, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia.
2018 -23 Haotong Li, -22 Rory McIlroy, -20 Tyrrell Hatton
2017 -19 Sergio Garcia, -16 Henrik Stenson, -14 Lasse Jensen, Tyrrell Hatton
2016 -19 Danny Willett, -18 Andy Sullivan, Rafa Cabrera Bello
2015 -22 Rory McIlroy, -19 Alex Noren, -16 Stephen Gallacher
2014 -16 Stephen Gallacher, -15 Emiliano Grillo, -14 Romain Wattel, Brooks Koepka
Who’s playing this year?
DJ and Koepka step aside, leaving current World No.5 Bryson DeChambeau as the big-name American in the field. The 25-year-old played this event in 2016 as an amateur, finishing tied 18th.
It’s a similar cast to Abu Dhabi, with Tommy Fleetwood and 2007 champ Henrik Stenson teeing it up again while Sergio Garcia, the 2017 winner, makes his first appearance of 2019. Once again, no Rory (two-time winner).
Also taking part: Tyrrell Hatton, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thorbjorn Olesen, Eddie Pepperell, Haotong Li, Matt Wallace, Byeong Hun An.
What else? Two of the last three champions, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia, won here and then went on to win the US Masters three months later.
When: Thursday January 31st to Sunday February 3rd
Where: Royal Greens G&CC, Saudi Arabia
Prize money: $3,500,000
History: There isn’t any. This is in the inaugural edition and marks new territory for the European Tour. The tournament takes place within King Abdullah Economic City at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, a par 72 created by London-based European Golf Design which is situated along the Red Sea coastline.
The Saudis want to make a statement and they’ve achieved that ambition by persuading two of the last three World No.1s – Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson – to headline the field.
Masters champion Patrick Reed is also jetting in while Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter have also been confirmed on the tournament’s official website.
Also taking part: The full 132-man field is yet to be published.
What else? Saudi Arabia’s current standing on the world stage means there is already controversy surrounding the event. One Irish writer has called for a media boycott while others on Twitter are taking a dim view of any player taking part.
New Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald motivated by ‘bitter’ memories of 2021 defeat
Stenson was stripped of the role for breaking his contract by joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
The task facing Luke Donald after replacing Henrik Stenson
Stenson was appointed on March 15 and said he was fully committed to a role before signing with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
Tony Finau claims second straight PGA Tour victory
The American won the 3M Open in his previous outing.
Henrik Stenson cushions Ryder Cup blow with £3.6m debut win in LIV Golf
The Swede was stripped of his role as Europe captain after joining the Saudi-backed breakaway tour.
Former Masters champion Bubba Watson becomes latest player to join LIV Golf
The left-hander is currently sidelined by a knee injury and is not expected to play until next season,
Luke Donald tipped to replace Henrik Stenson as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain
The Swede lost the job 127 days after his appointment following his decision to join the LIV Golf series.
Max Homa: Tiger Woods now understands the respect he commands from his peers
Homa has made no secret of his admiration for Woods.
Bernard Gallacher fears Greg Norman is not the man for compromise with LIV Golf
Players who have resigned from the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf will not be eligible for next year’s Ryder Cup.
Brooke Henderson takes two-shot lead into final round of Evian Championship
South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon climbed into outright second place on 15 under.