What annually ranks as one of the strongest fields on the European Tour will tee off at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship starting tomorrow, and Steve Elling looks at five favourites:
1. Henrik Stenson, Sweden: The hottest player on the planet at the end of 2013, Stenson played a staggering 31 times last year, capping it with a win in Dubai. At No 3, he is the top-ranked player in the field.
2. Jamie Donaldson, Wales: The defending champion had a career year and ended 2013 at a blistering pace, with five top-eight finishes in his last six starts. He has climbed to No 25 in the world rankings.
3. Thomas Bjorn, Denmark: A former winner in Dubai, Bjorn won his final 2013 start and was 10th last week in South Africa. The respected veteran is hoping for another shot at Ryder Cup glory with Europe later this year.
4. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland: A year to forget began here 52 weeks ago with a missed cut, but he won in Australia in November and has finally shown signs of perking up.
5. Sergio Garcia, Spain: Sure, this list is filled with seemingly obvious picks. But for good reason, too. Over Garcia’s last five starts in 2013, he finished ninth, 11th, fourth, second and first.