After Louis Oosthuizen retained his Volvo Golf Champions title last week, the Tour moves to Abu Dhabi for the HSBC Golf Championship. The prize money here is not surprisingly one of the biggest on the tour, so you won’t be shocked to see the likes of Stenson, Mickelson and McIlroy all catching a flight over to the Middle East. This also marks the year anniversary of DownThe18th as this was our first ever previewed tournament last year. Very emotional scenes.
But onto the tournament. Jamie Donaldson won very confidently last year and his accuracy off the tee was particularly impressive. The Abu Dhabi GC plays 7,600 yards which is very long. But we would not put this course into the bombers category with accuracy imperative on most of the holes. The fairways have also been narrowed down the years and we will perhaps not be seeing the -24 that Martin Kaymer shot here in 2011. -13 and -14 respectively have been the two most recent winning scores. Donaldson also came into this last year off the back of a T8 and final round 66 at the Volvo Golf Champions event, so it’s interesting to see who performed well last week. Overall, a combination of distance and accuracy off the tee would be very nice. Solid GIR statistics will be needed too.
We will say Henrik Stenson is known to like this track and has two runner-up finishes to his name already. That is ominous considering the deadly form he is in at the moment. And Rory McIlroy plays only his 2nd tournament after his win at the Australian Open and has recorded four top 5’s on the Abu Dhabi GC. We are sure they could have a big part to play this week but we are confident there is value elsewhere at higher odds.
Paddy Power are also paying 6 places this week.
Martin Kaymer (16/1 BetVictor)
The German last year showed glimpses of the talent that bagged him a major title in 2010 and the World Number 1 slot the year after. He comes to a course this week where he dominated from ’08 to ’11 with three wins and a 2nd place. You cannot deny how impressive those stats are. And even last year, when not at his best, he still managed a 6th place. We have been keeping our eye on Kaymer for a while now and his solid play has convinced us he will make a return to winning ways in Abu Dhabi. His consistent driving will be vital over the four days and the only problem will be whether he can hole enough putts.
Branden Grace (35/1 BetVictor)
The South African is getting back to the same sort of form that saw him win four titles on the European Tour in 2012. He certainly isn’t short off the tee and his accuracy is undeniable. He impressed us a lot last week with his 2nd place finish in the Champions event, narrowly being edged out by another resurgent South African. Grace is a form player if ever there was one and his last two performances have now been a 6th and a 2nd. He also finished 5th here last year in only his second start on the course. He will feature heavily in 2014 he could definitely do the business this week.
Paul Casey (45/1 Stan James)
The Englishman is someone that if you followed us last year, we talked a lot about. On his day he is one of the best drivers in the game and last year saw him recapture the form that saw him once be number 3 in the world. And he comes to a track where he won both in 2007 and 2009. The kind of form he was in back then he finds himself in now, relatively anyway. 2013 saw him claim The Irish Open, his first win on Tour for over two and a half years and he has since built on that with some solid finishes. With the confidence of knowing he is back to somewhat near his best, he could be a big contender this week on a track he loves.
Peter Uihlein (70/1 Bet365)
The American is undoubtedly one of our favourite golfers on the tour. We have nothing but admiration for him, coming and plying his trade in Europe and various other parts of the world. And 2013 proved to be huge for him, winning his first European Tour title at the Madeira Islands Open, finishing 14th in the Race to Dubai list with eight top-10 finishes and also claiming The Rookie of the Year title. So 70/1 seems pretty generous all things considered.
His game is based around some big hitting off the tee, and if he can start firing this week, he could contend for sure. Uihlein was indeed very hit and miss last week, but tight, technical courses are not his strongest point, for now anyway. If you’re looking for value for money, you won’t get much better than the 24-year-old.
Morten Ørum Madsen (125/1 Coral) & Maximilian Kieffer (160/1 Bet365)
We will finish off this week’s picks with a couple of players at high odds but with outstanding potential. Madsen’s rise to prominence has been relatively quick and has certainly put himself in the one to watch category this year. He won the South African Open a couple of months back and has since recorded three top 25’s including a 13th last week. He will need a big 2014 to really assert himself as one of the top members on the tour but he is certainly capable. His consistent length off the tee will mean he has the game to do well this week. Combine this with his form and he could be a big contender and very healthy odds.
The German Kieffer is someone we earmarked to have a big 2013 and it didn’t really come to fruition. But for his play-off loss at the Open De Espana, he will have been disappointed with his year. So 2014 will need to be a much improved one. But his game is based on his long length off the tee and accurate iron-play, perfect for Abu Dhabi. At 160/1 you won’t need to put much on him, but he could certainly figure this week if he plays the golf we know he is capable of. After all, he is still only 23.