Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Abu Dhabi Championship 2017

The "Desert Swing" kicks off in Abu Dhabi this week with one of the strongest fields we'll see on the Europeantour this season. And that's on the back of Rory McIlroy's withdrawal on Monday following his MRI scan confirming a rib fracture. US Open Champion, Dustin Johnson will head the market ahead of Open Champion, Henrik Stenson and Masters Champion, Danny Willett. They in turn will face strong competition from twice Major Champion and three time winner of this event, Martin Kaymer as well as Rickie Fowler (defending champion), Tyrell Hatton, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Alex Noren, Branden Grace and Rafa Cabrera-Bello not to mention a host of other inform players. DJ rightly heads the betting despite this being his course debut, but his power and current form should see him go close although the "normal" Europeantour events in the past haven't produced favourable results for him to date.

The Course

Abu Dhabi GC is a 7500 yard, Par-72 desert course where birdies can be made if finding the fairways off the tee and will suit strong par-5 performers and big hitters. That said, shorter hitters have done well here also, emphasizing perhaps that accuracy can be rewarded. Recent winners form here also suggest that GIR will be vital so expect those with the recent form and a strong accuracy skillset to contend here this week. Throw in some forecasted wind at the weekend , we should see the tough competitors prevail come Sunday afternoon.

Shortlist & Selections

I did find it tough to settle on a shortlist this week as anyone of a number could win this. We saw Gary Stal defeat Martin Kaymer, somehow, two years ago and we also saw Robert Rock @ 150/1 win as well as Pablo Larrzabal at triple figure odds in 2014. With a number of possibilities in front of us this week I've considered the TOP20 market as possibly the best way to approach it this week although I do have a strong fancy for Branden Grace to do well. He arrives having played the last two weeks in Hawaii, improving significantly last week to finish TOP15. Two TOP5s here in his last 4 visits suggest he likes this course and indeed he tends to perform well in the Middle East having posted 3 TOP10s at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. He ranked 12th last week for GIR at The Sony Open so should be fully warmed up for his third event of the 2017 campaign. The South African can scramble and contend in the wind should it arrive at the weekend and he represents some value to me @ 33/1.

I was also keen on Tyrell Hatton this week who has produced 2 TOP10s in his 3 visits to Abu Dhabi. He probably should have won at the Earth Course last November only to see Matty Fitzpatrick edge him out, but he is the most improved performer on the European Tour over the past twelve months and having broken through to clinch his maiden win at The Alfred Dunhill in October, his goal will be to add more titles in 2017 and he can approach this week in a confident mood knowing he has performed here in the past. Whilst I want to get involved in the TOP20 markets though, I've backed Hatton and Grace in cross doubles with Bill Haas & Ryan Palmer who play in the Career Builder Challenge on the PGA Tour this week.

I'll complete my staking plan for the Abu Dhabi Championship with the aforementioned TOP20 stabs. Peter Hanson showed some return to form in the latter part of 2016, notably finishing 4th at The British Masters.The Swede has form here too having produced 4 TOP10s in his 9 visits. Note two further 11th place finishes, of which one came here last year augurs well for his liking of the course and he can produce something similar again this week @ 4.50. His goal will be to make a third appearance at the Ryder Cup and will be keen to start compiling some points to achieve that.

Johan Carlsson is one of my "10toFollowin2017" players and is a big price this week. Indeed 7 of my 10 players from that list tee it up here and all easily meet the price threshold quite easily. This will be the Swede's 4th visit here where he has produced results of 7-63-16. Carlsson has the length off the tee to perform at Abu Dhabi and if improving on his solid TOP20 performance in 2016 he can strike here @ 10/1(11.00)

Matteo Mannasero is taken for a TOP20 @ 10/1 (11.00) despite mediocre form here in the past. Just one TOP10 in eight visits may not be that encouraging nor indeed back to back missed cuts the past two years, but there is positive signs that the youngster is returning to some form. An accurate player from tee to green, the Italian can thrive on confidence and he's a speculative play here in the TOP20 market but should he get a good start playing alongside Soomin Lee and Andrew Dodt on Thursday he can position himself for a positive opening event of 2017.

1.0 pt B.Grace WIN @ 34.00

2.50 pts P.Hanson TOP20 @ 4.50
1.75 pts J.Carlsson TOP20 @ 11.00
1.75 pts M. Mannasero TOP20 @11.00