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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA 2019: Five players to watch

This year's tournament will not be short on start dust when it gets under way on Wednesday, January 16. Among the contenders for the title are a variety of global stars.

Tommy Fleetwood successfully retained the Falcon Trophy after winning the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. AFP
Tommy Fleetwood successfully retained the Falcon Trophy after winning the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. AFP

1. Tommy Fleetwood (England)

World ranking: 13

The 27-year-old Englishman has had a golden couple of years on tour – both of which started with winning in Abu Dhabi.

In 2017 he played the final nine holes of the tournament in 31 strokes, to win by a shot ahead of the debuting Dustin Johnson, and Pablo Larrazabal.

That sparked the most successful year of his career to date, as he vaulted into the world’s top 20 from 99th at the start of the year, as well as winning the Race to Dubai.

He defended his Abu Dhabi title last year, winning by two strokes from Ross Fisher. If he does it for a third time, he will match Martin Kaymer’s tally of most wins at this event, after the German won in 2008, 2010 and 2011.

Brooks Koepka won three majors, but he seems keen toi improve his record in Abu Dhabi. Jung Yeon-je / AFP
Brooks Koepka won three majors, but he seems keen toi improve his record in Abu Dhabi. Jung Yeon-je / AFP

2. Brooks Koepka (United States)

World ranking: 2

When it was announced Koepka would be playing in this tournament, the American was No 2 in the world.

In between times, he has reached the very summit – only to now drop back down to No 2 again, after a rusty opening performance of 2019, when he finished 24th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Justin Rose assumed top spot without playing a shot.

Koepka, who was won three majors in the past two season, cut his teeth on the European Tour, and is not a complete stranger to the National Course. He has not played a competitive round there since missing the cut on debut in 2014, though.

World No 3 Dustin Johnson has very come close to winning in Abu Dhabi. Matthew Lewis / Getty Images
World No 3 Dustin Johnson has very come close to winning in Abu Dhabi. Matthew Lewis / Getty Images

3. Dustin Johnson (United States)

World ranking: 3

If Johnson can get off to a decent start to this tournament, it will be tough for rest of the field to keep pace with the long-hitting American.

That is if the evidence of his previous two trips to Abu Dhabi are anything to go by. In 2017, on his tournament debut, Johnson finished in a tie for second. Last year, he was tied eighth.

On each occasion, his title challenge was undermined by a mediocre start, as he shot 72 in Round 1 both times.

Johnson started his 2019 campaign by finishing tied fourth at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen has finished runner-up in each of the four majors in the past. David Cannon / Getty Images
South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen has finished runner-up in each of the four majors in the past. David Cannon / Getty Images

4. Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa)

World ranking: 25

The 2011 British Open champion was a winner again for the first time in nearly three years on the European Tour when he claimed an emotional victory at the South African Open last month.

Given his talent, not to mention his gorgeous swing, it feels a surprise the 36-year-old South African has not won more than the nine European Tour titles he has to his name.

He has finished runner-up in each of the four majors in the past, with the 2011 Open title arriving in just his ninth start in a major.

Henrik Stenson has yet to actually win the Falcon trophy, but he has played for it every year since. Phil Noble / Reuters
Henrik Stenson has yet to actually win the Falcon trophy, but he has played for it every year since. Phil Noble / Reuters

5. Henrik Stenson (Sweden)

World ranking: 27

In 2006, in the third round of what was then known as the first Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, Stenson shot 62. It remains the course record to this day.

And, also to this day, Stenson has yet to actually win the Falcon trophy, even though he has played for it every year since.

This will be his 14th attempt at winning in Abu Dhabi. The elusive title remains the only one of the regular Desert Swing tournaments – Oman was a new addition to the calendar last year, while Saudi Arabia will be debuting later this month – that the former Dubai-resident has failed to win.

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Read more:

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Updated: January 14, 2019 12:06 PM

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