The European Tour will begin its new season this week with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the Abu Dhabi Golf Membership within the United Arab Emirates. The tour can have 42 occasions in 24 international locations, capped in November by the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
The HSBC championship, which has been held on the similar course yearly since 2006, is one among 4 tournaments within the Rolex Collection.
Listed here are 5 gamers to observe:
McIlroy, 31, of Northern Eire, is due. His final victory got here on the WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai within the fall of 2019. It was the identical 12 months he captured the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup for the second time.
The Abu Dhabi course actually appeals to McIlroy, who completed second in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. He hasn’t performed within the occasion since 2018, when he tied for third.
Final 12 months wasn’t one among McIlroy’s greatest. He recorded various superb rounds, however the issue was having the ability to put 4 of them collectively in the identical week.
A very good instance was the Masters in November. Over the past three days, McIlroy shot 66, 67 and 69, one stroke decrease in that span than the champion, Dustin Johnson. McIlroy, nonetheless, had began the event with a three-over 75. It was merely an excessive amount of floor to make up.
McIlroy, who was ranked No. 1 on the earth earlier than the pandemic, hasn’t gained a significant since 2014. Presently No. 6 within the rankings, he can obtain the Grand Slam with a victory in April on the Masters.
Thomas, 27, ranked No. 3 on the earth, will probably be enjoying for the primary time in Abu Dhabi. He is among the favorites each time he tees it up. He gained three tournaments final season on the PGA Tour and now has 13 victories in his profession.
About two weeks in the past, on the Sentry Match of Champions in Hawaii, Thomas completed third, capturing a final-round 66. His costliest mistake got here when he bogeyed No. 17, as he completed one shot out of the playoff between Harris English and Joaquin Niemann.
Thomas’s sturdy play on the event was overshadowed by his use of an anti-gay slur after lacking a putt. He later apologized.
In his three earlier European Tour begins, his greatest end was a tie for eighth on the 2018 HNA Open de France.
Westwood, the defending champion and European Tour Golfer of the 12 months in 2020, continues to be fairly succesful on the age of 47.
In final 12 months’s occasion at Abu Dhabi, he held off Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and Victor Perez to win his twenty fifth European Tour victory. The wins have are available 4 separate a long time.
Westwood, the previous No. 1 participant on the earth, can even have a possibility this week to enhance his possibilities of qualifying for the 2021 Ryder Cup, which will probably be held in Wisconsin.
He has been a member of the European group 10 occasions, beginning in 1997, and solely Nick Faldo has appeared in additional matches.
A blemish in Westwood’s profession is the shortage of a significant championship. He has come shut with 9 top-three finishes. Within the 2019 British Open he completed in a tie for fourth.
Westwood has been a wonderful ball striker for a few years. His quick recreation, nonetheless, has not been on the similar stage.
Fleetwood, who turned 30 on Tuesday, has had a substantial amount of success on the Abu Dhabi course. He gained the occasion in 2017 and 2018 and tied for second in 2020.
Fleetwood, No. 19 on the earth rankings, can also be nonetheless chasing his first main title. He has been in competition on a number of events. Within the 2018 United States Open, he fired a final-round 63 to complete one shot again of the winner, Brooks Koepka.
In 2020, Fleetwood completed 4 occasions within the high three. Nonetheless, he is aware of the 12 months might have been a lot better.
“There are areas of my recreation the place I felt I struggled,” he stated. “My lengthy recreation wasn’t as much as the usual I really feel it needs to be.”
Even so, making the Ryder Cup group is nicely inside his sights.
The occasion, Fleetwood stated, “is one thing you by no means need to miss once more.” Fleetwood was 4-1 for the European group in 2018.
One other purpose is making it to Tokyo.
“The Olympics is an event that I need to expertise and characterize my nation,” he stated.
Fitzpatrick ended the 2020 season with a placing victory on the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. Tied for the lead heading into the ultimate spherical, he birdied 5 of the primary seven holes, prevailing by a shot over Westwood. It was his sixth European Tour triumph and first because the 2018 Omega European Masters.
The win in Dubai couldn’t have come at a greater time. In his prior 10 tournaments, he’d missed 4 cuts.
“It was positively nice to get one other win below my belt after so many second-place finishes over the past two seasons,” Fitzpatrick stated.
“I feel any win or good consequence provides you some confidence, so hopefully I can carry the momentum into 2021. I’d say on the weeks main as much as the occasion I did some nice swing work with my coach, Mike Walker, and that positively confirmed.”
Over time, Fitzpatrick, No. 17 on the earth, has revised his view of the Abu Dhabi course.
“Once I first got here out on the European Tour, I form of thought that it didn’t swimsuit my recreation,” he stated. “My notion of it was that it was a bomber’s paradise, however since then it’s form of proved my idea flawed.”