Top field for Abu Dhabi Golf Championship
The stage is set for the 12th edition of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club
The stage is set for the 12th edition of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club from January 19-22, with a 126-man line up of the world's top players confirmed.
The final field list for the 'Desert Swing' opener hosts a diverse cast full of major winners, emerging stars and Ryder Cup legends, as well as three of the world's top four golfers, who will all be hoping to lift the iconic Falcon Trophy in the Capital.
The incredible strength throughout the field follows the trend that the Championship has set over the last decade for bringing superstars of the game to the Middle East. This year's event will be no different as World No.3 and US Open Champion Dustin Johnson makes his debut in the region, while compatriot Rickie Fowler returns to Abu Dhabi as defending champion.
Joining the headline pack is World No.2 Rory McIlroy, who will be chasing his first Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title alongside World No.4 and Open winner Henrik Stenson, while Masters Champion Danny Willett will also be teeing it up on the challenging Championship course at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
After an enthralling battle against Team USA at Hazeltine in September, many of Europe's Ryder Cup team will also regroup in the winter sun of Abu Dhabi to kick start their 2017 season. As well as McIlroy, Stenson and Willett, Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello, Germany's three-time Abu Dhabi winner Martin Kaymer and Belgian prodigy Thomas Pieters will tee it up at the event. British trio Andy Sullivan, Lee Westwood and Chris Wood will also go from team-mates to rivals in their quest for the title. The European elite will be in the company of past and future Ryder Cup leaders, as Darren Clarke, 2016 captain, and Thomas Bjorn, 2018 captain, both join the field.
Tour veterans Alvaro Quiros and Brett Rumford are among the group securing the final invitations to compete, with the Spaniard and Australian holding 11 European Tour titles between them. England's Eddie Pepperell and Tom Lewis complete the invitees.
Ian Poulter, another hallmark name of the European game, will continue his return from injury at Abu Dhabi Golf Club after making only two appearances on Tour last season, one of which was a tied-14th place finish at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton will be entering the year buoyantly after a strong end to 2016 saw him clinch a fourth place finish in the European Tour's Race to Dubai. Hatton, 25, produced four top-10 finishes, including a victory, in his last six starts to propel himself into the mix as one of the continent's top talents.
Australian Sam Brazel is one of the only players in the field to have already lifted a trophy this season, after his impressive win at the UBS Hong Kong Open in December. More representation from down-under will come from amateur Curtis Luck, winner of the 2016 US Amateur Championship and tipped as a next-generation star of the sport
Meanwhile, Graeme Storm will be taking on The Championship Course in high spirits after a nail-biting playoff victory against Rory McIlroy at the South African Open last weekend.
Another man to keep an eye on will be Sweden's Alex Noren, who is returning to the UAE off the back of his career-best season which included four wins and third place in the Race to Dubai. Seventh placed South African Branden Grace and ninth placed Austrian Bernd Wiesberger will also provide further pedigree to the field, meaning that nine of the European Tour's Order of Merit top 10 last season will tee it up in Abu Dhabi. Thorbjorn Olesen, Joost Luiten, and Alexander Levy, all winners on last year's circuit, will also be looking to add to their trophy tallies.
The watching galleries will be able to support a strong Asian contingent of players appearing at the Championship too. Thai stars Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat will be joined by the Korean trio of Byeong Hun An, Soomin Lee and Jeunghun Wang. India's growing golf reputation will be fronted by SSP Chawrasia and Rayhan Thomas, the UAE's number 1 amateur.
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