x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Poulter out to go one better at Abu Dhabi Championship

The flamboyant Englishman confirms that he will return to the capital with the European Tour next month.

Ian Poulter hopes his knowledge of the National Course can help him claim the title.
Ian Poulter hopes his knowledge of the National Course can help him claim the title.

ABU DHABI // Ian Poulter yesterday confirmed that he will return to the capital with the European Tour next month, and his flamboyant style should be welcomed by spectators lining the fairways of the National Course.

The Englishman came within a single stroke of victory at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship earlier this year, missing a 30-foot putt on the final hole and slipping behind Martin Kaymer on the leaderboard.

"I played great last year and, although I came pretty close, Martin was the deserved winner," Poulter said.

"If I hadn't thrown in a 70 in on the Friday I think I could have snuck past him."

Poulter did, however, carry his form in the Emirates through the rest of the season and enjoyed his most successful year in professional golf, winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play, the Tavistock Cup and the UBS Hong Kong Open, as well as featuring in Europe's triumphant Ryder Cup team in Wales.

Now he is looking to pick up where he left off when the Desert Swing gets under way on January 20.

"Knowing the National Course suits my game certainly gives me confidence," said Poulter, 34. "Everybody wants to win this championship and coming so close in 2010 really spurs me on."

The Abu Dhabi Championship, as it approaches its sixth year, recently announced a new title sponsor in the form of HSBC.

The deal was crucial in prompting tournament organisers to increase the prize fund by US$500,000 (Dh1.84 million), taking the purse to $2.7m and making it the richest event of the four Gulf tournaments: Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai.

"Ian Poulter's performance in January 2010 signalled what sort of year he was going to have, but when you look back his WGC win in February was the starting point of one of the greatest years in the history of European golf," said Giles Morgan, HSBC's group head of sponsorship. "He's a great addition to a world-class field."

Poulter joins a field that already includes, for the first time in the Middle East, all four reigning major champions - Kaymer, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell - as well as world No 1 Lee Westwood and Paul Casey, a two-time champion in Abu Dhabi.

All seven players have already qualified for next year's Masters at Augusta National, but yesterday it was confirmed they will be accompanied by Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, the Italian brothers.

The pair secured their qualification through the world rankings after finishing the season placed 15th and 18th, respectively. The top 50 automatically qualify.

Among others confirmed eligible to compete in the season's first major, to be played from April 7, in Georgia, are the Swede Robert Karlsson, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa and Ryo Ishikawa, the Japanese prodigy.

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae