It’s ‘Magic Four’ week
Four, as the European Tour so adequately said on its website on Tuesday, is a number that will stand out this week.
Four, as the European Tour so adequately said on its website on Tuesday, is a number that will stand out like a brightly lit beacon this week.
During the next few days we will see the fourth event of the fourth Race to Dubai series featuring the world’s top four golfers, namely in order, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood of England, Rory McIroy of Northern Ireland and Martin Kaymer of Germany.
And that’s not all.
Kaymer, who seems to thrive in the middle east and has an outstanding record at Abu Dhabi, will be gunning for his fourth victory in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship when he tees of on Thursday.
He won the first of his three Falcon Trophies while securing his breakthrough European Tour title in 2008 before finishing runner-up to Paul Casey in the following year.
He returned to Abu Dhabi in 2010 and won again early in the same year that he would go on to win his first major at the US PGA Championship.
He came back last year to defend his Abu Dhabi title and did so in such grand style as to strongly suggest that he will come back again this year and not only add another magic No 4 to this year’s Abu Dhabi equation, but also to join that rare breed of star who has won the same official European Tour event three years in succession.
“Abu Dhabi is a special championship for me, obviously,” said Kaymer. “I love the course and I’ve played some of my best golf on The National. The amazing field means it is going to be special and it will certainly be my toughest Abu Dhabi challenge yet.”
This week’s opening battle of the European Tour’s three-event, desert swing is special indeed.
For starters, it includes a confident Tiger Woods, looking to win his first full-field golf tournament since his fall from grace more than two years ago.
This in order to reinforce the suggestion that his form late last year in the Australian Open where he finished third, in the Presidents Cup in which he helped the USA defeat the Internationals in Melbourne, and back home in the USA where he won the Chevron World Challenge, was all pointing to an exciting upswing in his fortunes.
A win here will get him close to a place again in the World’s Top 10, but it won’t get him back to his long-held World No 1 spot. At least not yet.
However that won’t lessen the current heat at the top of the World Ranking list where Donald, the top money winner and Player of the Year on both sides of the Atlantic last year, is going to have to come out with all guns blazing to hold off the three closest of his many ambitious pursuers.
Donald does not have an especially distinguished record in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
He finished 11th in his only previous appearance there, but he thrived in the desert of Arizona last season where he won the gruelling WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, so you can’t write him off.
Westwood, who passed the 400 European Tour appearance mark in Dubai at the end of last season, will also be hoping to begin 2012 with a victory.
The stocky Englishman was joint runner up to Kaymer when the German won his first title in Abu Dhabi in 2008, while McIlroy, having finished runner-up to Kaymer 12 months will, like Westwood, also be looking to extract a measure of revenge from the German.
Also expected to feature this week will be reigning Open Champion Darren Clarke and Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel.
In joining US Open Champion McIlroy in the field, the duo will take to three the number of reigning Major winners competing for the $2.7million prize fund this week.
Others worth a mention ahead of Thursday’s tee-off at Abu Dhabi Golf Club is the up-and-coming Australian young gun Jason Day, currently the World No 10, and South African Branden Grace, who followed up his win in the Joburg Open two weeks ago with victory in last week’s Volvo Golf Champions at Fancourt.where he beat legendary fellow countrymen Retief Goosen and Ernie Els at the first hole of a sudden-death play-off.
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