Nov 9th, 2016
12 Star showdown for Abu Dhabi Championship
Dustin, Rory, Danny, Henrik, and Rickie for starters
Words: John Dean Photography: Getty Images
A 12-star showdown is set for the 12th edition of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, January 19-22, with defending champion Rickie Fowler set to go head-to-head with Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett. With four of the world’s top 10, including three of this year’s Major winners confirmed, Abu Dhabi will welcome another stunning line-up of the world’s best.
The headlining pack will be joined by Branden Grace, Alex Noren, Thomas Pieters, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Jaidee Thongchai and Thomas Bjorn. The award-winning tournament, which boasted the strongest field of the 2016 European Tour season, outside of the Majors, has become renowned for delivering a world class field year on year.
Johnson is looking to start 2017 in Abu Dhabi with the same winning flair that has seen him win the U.S. Open, BMW Championship and Ryder Cup, capped by the PGA Tour Player of The Year title. Renowned as one of the PGA Tour’s longest drivers, the world number two hopes he’ll feel right at home in Abu Dhabi.
Johnson commented: “I’m really looking forward to it and pleased to have the opportunity to play in Abu Dhabi. I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard really good things about the golf course from Rickie and Rory who tell me I’m definitely going to like it, and about Abu Dhabi itself so I’m really excited about going.”
Fellow U.S. compatriot Fowler is expected to drive thousands of fans back to Abu Dhabi Golf Club as he returns to defend the Falcon Trophy. The 27-year-clinched the victory in memorable style earlier this year, making himself an Abu Dhabi favourite along the way.
"Abu Dhabi was a high point for my 2016 season along with competing in the Olympic Games and being on the winning 2016 USA Ryder Cup Team. Coming out on top against the strongest field on the European Tour was as good a start as anyone could aspire to!" He added: "I’m excited to go back having been there the last two years and now there’s a good reason, being defending champion.”
Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), which owns the Championship, played annually at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, believes that superstar power, strength and depth of field has become synonymous with the tournament’s global popularity – both amongst players and fans.
His Excellency Aref Al Awani, ADSC’s General Secretary, commented: “The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship has become one of the most anticipated golf events globally. We are proud to announce that the 2016 edition offered more world rankings points than any other European Tour event this season.”
He added: “In announcing this 12-strong line up, including the addition of US superstar Dustin Johnson, the 2017 Championship looks set to be even stronger. We are all anticipating another thrilling week of golf as we welcome the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to the Capital for its twelfth instalment.”
Fresh from bagging the 2016 Tour Championship and FedEx Cup trophies, Rory McIlroy is on the hunt for his first Abu Dhabi victory when he tees off at the National course for the tenth time. The four-time Major winner and world number three has clinched four runner-up slots over the past nine years.
Olympic Silver Medallist Stenson returns to Abu Dhabi with 11 years of National Course experience and The Open Championship 2016 title under his belt, and will be bidding to win the one prize that has eluded him in the region. The two-time runner-up came close in 2016, placing joint third runner-up with McIlroy as Fowler lifted the trophy.
“It’s great to see the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship grow so much over the years and HSBC is putting a lot of effort and commitment into golf by hosting one of the top events on the European Tour,” said Stenson. “It’s a great way for me to start my season – good weather, good practice, good courses, good food, good hotel and we get well looked after.”
Stenson added that it would be his ‘wish’ to win the Championship, commenting: “I’ve been second twice in Abu Dhabi so that would be a nice one to add to the collection.”
2016 Masters Tournament champion Danny Willett tasted victory in the UAE just two weeks after playing in the Capital this year. He plans to use Abu Dhabi as a spring board to carry his most successful season to date into 2017 by starting with a test against the world’s best.
Willett commented: “Abu Dhabi’s renowned for getting really good fields and I think this year’s is probably going to be one of the strongest they’ve ever had with this year’s Major winners – myself, Henrik and Dustin – as well as Rory and Rickie defending; It’s a great field this year.”
After bursting onto the world stage with a record-breaking Rookie performance at the Ryder Cup, 24 year-old Thomas Pieters is another one to watch, having lost out on a maiden Abu Dhabi victory to Fowler by one shot earlier this year.
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is presented by ADSC and will take place from 19 – 22 January 2017 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.