Fleetwood, Johnson, McIlroy announced among stellar field for Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Sport360 staff 15:43 22/11/2017
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All eyes on Fleetwood.

Defending champion and freshly-crowned European Tour prize money winner Tommy Fleetwood will go head-to-head with world number one, Dustin Johnson, four-time Major winner, Rory McIlroy and 2016 Open champion and Olympic silver medallist, Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With three of the world’s top-10 confirmed for the field, the UAE capital will welcome another stunning line-up of the world’s best at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club from January 18 – 21 next year.

The headlining pack will be joined by American Ryder Cup star and Olympic bronze medallist, Matt Kuchar, making his Middle East debut and two-time championship winner Paul Casey who has had a remarkable 2017, with a strong performance at the Masters and the Bridgestone Invitational.

The official world golf rankings end of season list confirmed that the 2017 Championship boasted the second-strongest field on the 2017 European Tour season — not including the Majors and World Golf Championships — a list calculated by the number of top-30 and top-200 world ranked players competing at every event.

Previous championships have seen over 80,000 spectators attend in person, as well as broadcast reach consistently exceeding 450 million viewers.

Over the four-day championship, 126 players will compete for a total prize purse of $3,000,000, an increase of $300,000 from previous years.

McIlroy will be returning to Abu Dhabi despite struggling with injury for much of 2017. The Championship should suit McIlroy perfectly having played the course several times before and with his focus having shifted to the 2018 Masters rather than the end of the 2017 campaign, Abu Dhabi will be the perfect tournament to kick-start his year.

Will be making his return: Rory McIlroy

Making his return: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy said: “I am looking for a strong start in 2018 and Abu Dhabi is the perfect place to open my season’s campaign. Having come really close here on more than one occasion, I will be completely focused on trying to win the coveted falcon trophy and getting myself back into the winners’ circle – that would be a real confidence boost to start the New Year.”

Johnson is looking to start 2018 in Abu Dhabi with the same form that has seen him sit at number one for a consecutive 39 weeks and also cement a place in history, as he joined Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, as one of only four golfers in PGA Tour history to win a title in each of their first 10 seasons. Renowned as one of the PGA Tour’s longest drivers, he’ll feel right at home in Abu Dhabi.

“Abu Dhabi is great, it’s a fun course to play and I felt I played really well during my first appearance there, aside from my first day troubles with the putter of course,” said Johnson. “I am sure this year I’ll put myself in a good position to compete and hopefully I can go one better than 2017. Aside from the majors, 2017 has been a really good year for me winning a multitude of titles and hopefully Abu Dhabi can act as the perfect springboard for me in 2018.”

Sweden’s Stenson returns to Abu Dhabi for his 13th consecutive year and will be looking to win a tournament that has so far eluded him.

The two-time runner-up said: “I am hoping 2018 will finally be my year. I know the UAE well, having lived there for almost 10 years and think the course is magnificent, particularly the 18th hole, Par 5, whose green is surrounded by the grandstand. Having played every year, the inaugural Championship will always live long in the memory having come so close to winning the title.”

Hoping to kickstart 2018 on a positive note: Henrik Stenson

Will it finally be his year? Henrik Stenson.

Two-time champion in 2007 and 2009, the 14th-ranked Casey will be looking to continue his recent fine form in January.

“Abu Dhabi is an incredibly special place for me, having won the Championship twice. After a strong start to the season so far, I’m confident heading into the Championship and know what it takes to get the job done. It would be great if I could equal Martin’s (Kaymer’s) record there,” he said.

Kuchar has posted a strong 2017 season, almost going all the way on a couple of occasions. Undoubtedly his best performance was his second place at the Open, followed by a tied fourth place at the Masters. He’ll be hoping to go one better on his UAE capital debut.

Kuchar commented: “I have heard so many good things about the Championship from my friends on the tour. I am very excited to finally be playing in Abu Dhabi and experience everything it has to offer. Despite there being a lot of emerging talent coming up through the ranks, I am confident that if I can keep up my rich vein form from 2017 I’ll be well-placed come Abu Dhabi in January.”

Justin Rose has also announced his attendance. The Brit recently won the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions tournament, so will no doubt be looking to begin 2018 in the same vein.

“Starting 2018 off in Abu Dhabi is something many of the players on tour look forward to,” said Rose. “I’ve had a strong end to 2017 and I’ll be hoping to carry on that momentum as I arrive in the capital once again.

“It’s a really enjoyable yet testing course which gives us players a challenge each round, and I’m sure I’m not the only one looking to take the falcon trophy off Tommy this year.”

Will look to carry momentum from his 2017 campaign: Justin Rose

Joining the capital party: Justin Rose

Aref Al Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, owners of the championship, said: “Today’s announcement continues our tradition for attracting the best names in world golf. Over the past 12 editions the Championship has welcomed the likes of Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Today’s announcement shows our commitment to maintain the calibre of field and we are thrilled to announce the ‘Magnificent Seven’.

“We have also, together with the unwavering eight-year support of our headline supporter HSBC, built an off-course offering which is the envy of many and a significant draw in its own right – we are enhancing this further with the support of our recently welcomed presenting partner, EGA.”

The tournament, held at the showpiece Abu Dhabi Golf Club, was recently renamed as the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

The deal means that EGA is now backing both key UAE championships on the early-start Desert Swing – the other being the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. EGA is the only company to sponsor both events.

In a positive move for UAE golfers, this year the organising committee confirmed that it will re-introduce an 18 hole qualifying tournament to provide opportunities for local pros and amateurs the chance to compete at the 2018 Championship.

Both male professionals and amateur golfers with a handicap of scratch or better (as of November 1 2017), will be invited to Saadiyat Beach Golf Club on Monday December 11 for their chance to qualify.

Three qualifying spots (one professional, one amateur and one UAE national) will be available, earning them a place to play alongside the world’s best at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

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