American world No 3 will return to the capital for a third time aiming to land his first Falcon Trophy
Dustin Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood confirmed for 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA
World No 3 Dustin Johnson will return in January to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
The American, who finished runner-up on debut last year and then tied-9th earlier this year, has been confirmed for the January 16-19 event, with reigning champion Tommy Fleetwood also back to defend the title he captured the past two years.
The 2016 US Open champion and world No 1 for much of the past 18 months, Johnson pushed Fleetwood close on his competitive bow around the National Course, missing out on the Falcon Trophy by a single shot.
Unsurprisingly, Johnson hopes to go one better at the third time of asking.
“Having played the event for the last two years, I’m really looking forward to returning,” he said.
“I enjoy being in Abu Dhabi and have made several friends during my visits. The golf course is one of the best and most well-conditioned we play all year and it always presents a good, fair test. I’ve played OK there in the past, but hopefully this will be my year to get the win.”
Not long after this year’s top 10 in Abu Dhabi, Johnson briefly lost his place at the top of the rankings. He won in Memphis in June to reclaim the summit, but he is now down to No 3 behind Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka.
In between, he finished third at the US Open - his best result in this season’s majors. To date, Johnson has 19 worldwide wins.
Meanwhile, Fleetwood is sure to represent a chief threat in Abu Dhabi. The Englishman, a huge part on debut of Europe’s success at last month’s Ryder Cup, has risen to become one of the game’s best players on the back of his initial win in the UAE capital and following that went on to seal last year's Race to Dubai crown.
The current European No 1 repeated the feat in Abu Dhabi in January, winning by two shots to move to 12th in the world rankings. Now one spot higher in the standings, Fleetwood has amassed five victories worldwide.
“I have had an amazing couple of years and it all really started at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA,” he said. “The 2017 win was massive, but then defending my title earlier this year was very special as it is extremely tough to do."
The news follows soon after last week’s announcement that the Abu Dhabi event has been elevated to Rolex Series status on the European Tour. It boasts an increased prize fund of $7 million (Dh25.7m).
“I think it is one of the strongest events on tour and it so deserves its place on the Rolex Series,” Fleetwood said. “And I know this will be a popular decision among the players.
"I love everything about Abu Dhabi, from the course to the hotels to the restaurants and, of course, returning as the defending champion. I can’t wait to be back in January.”
Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, added: “We are thrilled that the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA has become part of the Rolex Series. It is a landmark addition that broadens the Series further and helps to strengthen the European Tour both globally and in the UAE.
“This event attracts some of the world’s top players like Dustin and Tommy, and we are looking forward to watching four days of high-quality, compelling and dramatic golf.”