Patrick Cantlay makes his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship debut after needling from former champion Rickie Fowler
American poised for first start in European competition outside of majors and World Golf Championships
Patrick Cantlay’s Abu Dhabi debut owes a lot to Rickie Fowler. Namely, the former champion’s playful jabbing.
Fowler lifted the Falcon Trophy in 2016, after a final round 69 saw him beat playing partner Thomas Pieters by one stroke.
“I talked to Rickie,” Cantlay, the world No 6, said at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Tuesday. “He enjoyed his time here. Obviously he won; he told me how great a list of champions this place had, kind of needling me a little bit.
“It's a good way to start the year, playing some desert golf, which is more target golf. It just fit in a good part of the schedule.
"I've heard a lot of great things about the event, and played nine holes on the golf course. Seems good so far, so all good.”
The tournament’s roll of honour certainly entices. As does this week’s field, headlined by world No 1 Brooks Koepka, the only guy contesting the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA ranked higher than Cantlay.
The $7 million (Dh25.7m) purse helps, too, an increased prize fund given the event is the first of eight on this year’s European Tour Rolex Series.
Putting everything together, it’s definitely very persuasive. Enough to convince Cantlay, an American making his first start in Europe outside the majors and World Golf Championships, to make the journey across the Atlantic.
That, he says, and becoming a truly global player.
“It's important to play all over the world, not only just for growing-the-game purposes," he said. "It's good as a golfer to see different places and get comfortable playing all over. I think that's part of it.
“It's good to play experience different cultures and see what the world is like.”
And, while taking in Abu Dhabi’s top tourist spots may have to wait, the two-time PGA Tour winner will do his darnedest come Sunday to leave with the Falcon Trophy. That would go some way to silencing Fowler.
“I'm here first and foremost to win the golf tournament, prepare my best to do so,” Cantlay said. “So excited for Thursday to come around and start off my first European Tour event.”
Updated: January 14, 2020 07:31 PM