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Preview: Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

Rory McIlroy current official PGA TOUR headshot (Photo by Caryn Levy/PGA TOUR) ***Local Caption*** Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy current official PGA TOUR headshot (Photo by Caryn Levy/PGA TOUR) ***Local Caption*** Rory McIlroy

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 2016 debut of Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.

There is also the impended power struggle for the No. 1 ranking as top-ranked Jordan Spieth tees it up in the United Arab Emirates as well.

Abu Dhabi Country club hosts the 72-hole tournament, which also features former Race to Dubia champion Henrik Stenson, who is making his first start since knee surgery, and Martin Kaymer, who won here in 2008, 2010 and 2011 during one stretch.

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.

The field is stacked with high-profile players including McIlroy, Spieth, Fowler, eurotourlogoStenson and Kaymer. Expected Race to Dubai contenders Branden Grace, Danny Willet, Victor Dubuisson and Bern Wiesberger are also here.

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

2015 Results:

  • France’s Gary Stal (19-under) shocked the world of golf along with Rory and Kaymer with a final-round 65 to capture his maiden European Tour title. Rory finished a shot back (hurt by a third-round 71) but Kaymer choked away a huge lead after 54-holes. He shot 75 on the final day to end up third at 17-under. Dubuisson was T-4 at 16-under, while Bernd Wiesberger and Jamie Donaldson logged Top 10s.

ballholeFANTASY: Kaymer should contend here if history plays a part, since he has three victories at Abu Dhabi. Rory is a play with his four runner-up finishes at this event. Spieth enters after winning his season opener at the PGA Tour’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Take Dubuisson and Grace, who have been playing recently and should be in good form.

BETTORS: Although heavyweights Spieth (4-1), Rory (4-1), Fowler (12-1) and Kaymer (15-1) make up the betting favorites at www.golfodds.com, consider a longer shot. Long-shots won the last four editions including Stal (who ranked 357th when he won), Pablo Larrazabal, Donaldson and Robert Rock.  Take Russell Knox, who broke through with a big win in November at the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions in China. He is listed at 60-1 odds. As a 30-1 selection, Dubuisson is worth a wager.

Other Golf News:

  • The PGA Tour hits the mainland for the first time this calendar season hosting PGA TOURthe CareerBuilder Challenge near Palm Springs, California. Patrick Reed (7-1 at Station Casinos in Las Vegas) is the favorite, while Bill Haas (20-1) is the defending champion.
  • The Champions Tour tees off its 2016 season in Hawaii this week at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship. Bernhard Langer, now a three-time Charles Schwab Cup champion, is expected to contend.
  • Stenson returns to action this week. He has a pair of runner-up finishes at Abu Dhabi.