x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Golfers McIlroy, Rose and Donald are set to make Abu Dhabi return

Manassero and Donaldson among other high-profile players to commit to Desert Swing tournament to be held from January 16-19.

Rory McIlroy believes he is returning to form after a relatively poor 2013.
Rory McIlroy believes he is returning to form after a relatively poor 2013.

ABU DHABI // If this year's event was touted on billboards as the "Return of the Giants", organisers of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship may need similar creativity in finding a marketing hook for January's tournament.

Again lining up many of the biggest names in the sport, tournament officials on Tuesday announced that three players ranked in the world top 11 have committed to play the event that begins January 16 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club's National Course.

Two of the three are former world No 1s Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald and the third is the reigning US Open champion, Justin Rose.

All three played in the Ryder Cup last year.

"Over the past eight years spectators at the National Course, and those watching around the world, have come to expect the unexpected at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship," said Faisal Al Sheikh of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, which runs the event.

By now, nobody will be surprised by the depth of the field that not only has become the best on the winter Desert Swing, but one of the deepest of the entire European calendar. In fact, the firepower assembled has often ranked in the top tier of the European Tour schedule.

This year's event drew 12 players ranked in the world top 40 at the time, the most of any regular European Tour event this year with the exception of the circuit's showcase event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, which drew 13 players ranked in the top 40.

Abu Dhabi tournament officials are working on securing commitments from a handful of high-profile American players that will be announced over the next few weeks.

Last January, in another Desert Swing thriller, Rose missed a 12-foot putt on the 72nd hole that would have sent the event into sudden death.

Instead, Welshman Jamie Donaldson won by a shot.

Rose won the US Open in June, the first Englishman to win the American title since 1970.

Italian star Matteo Manassero, who won the flagship Wentworth event and is an ambassador for the Golf in Abu Dhabi promotional campaign, also has committed.

Manassero is ranked No 28 in the world.

McIlroy and Rose are ranked Nos 3 and 5 in the world, respectively.

Donald this week dropped to 11th when he was bumped out of the top 10 by Sunday's PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner, who also played at Abu Dhabi last January.

World No 1 Tiger Woods, who played in Abu Dhabi the past two years, is expected to play in the Dubai Desert Classic, that begins January 30 as the event celebrates its 25th anniversary.

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