Preview: Abu Dhabi HSBC Champions

Preview – European Tour — Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship – Abu Dhabi Golf Club – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates –

An extra buzz surrounds the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship this week with the 2014 debut of Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.

Abu Dhabi Country club hosts the 72-hole tournament, which also features defending champion Jamie Donaldson, who finished 5th in the Race To Dubai last season. The par-72 layout stretches to about 7,600 yards and produces low scores. The course features a classic desert layout with plenty of water hazards. The 567-yard, par-5 18th hole could decide the tournament.

McIlroy, who was No. 1 in the world here last year, arrives after winning in late 2013 in Australia. Mickelson is playing on the European Tour for the first time since back-to-back victories at the Scottish Open and Open Championship last summer.

Past champions at this event and venue include Martin Kaymer (2008, 2010 and 2011) and Paul Casey (2007 and 2009). Each could factor as their games are trending in positive directions.

The champion this week earns the “Falcon” trophy. Golf Channel has television coverage all week.

2013 Results:

  • Jamie Donaldson (14-under) outlasted Justin Rose and Thorbjorn Olesen for the one-shot victory. Ricardo Santos and Branden Grace rounded out the Top 5. Kaymer and Joost Luiten managed Top 10 efforts.

FANTASY: Kaymer should contend here if history plays a part. Take Padraig Harrington, the three-time major champion. Harrington recorded a Top 5 last week at the Volvo Golf Champions. Garcia makes his 2014 debut this week. This could be a special year for the Spaniard.

BETTORS: McIlroy (5-to-1) is the betting favorites, according to Donaldson (25-1), who ended up 16th in Scoring Average on the European Tour last season, is a great pick to defend. This layout has been kind to past champions. Henrik Stenson is 8-1 along with Garcia. At 25-1, Grace is a nice long-shot bet.

Other Golf News:

  • Mickelson finished the 2013 PGA Tour campaign 4th on the Money List, 12th in Scoring Average and 6th in Strokes Gained Putting.
  • Zach Johnson is the co-favorite at the PGA Tour’s Humana Challenge near Palm Springs, California. At 12-1, Zach is a co-favorite with Webb Simpson. The tournament also features past major champion Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker.
  • The Champions Tour debuts its 2014 season this week in Hawaii with the Mitsubishi Electric Championship. Bernhard Langer, at 6-1, is the betting favorite to win. Kenny Perry and Fred Couples are both 7-1 picks.