I said last week that I was hoping we could start off our 2020 in fine style and we did exactly that as we bagged a winner with Branden Grace in South Africa and a couple of great each-way returns from Graeme McDowell and Ryan Palmer at 100/1 and 80/1 respectively over in Hawaii. So, we move on in great spirits to this week’s action, The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the European Tour and the newly named American Express on the PGA Tour.
Starting this week in Abu Dhabi and it is a return to the regular haunt for this event the National Course at the Abu Dhabi GC, a par 72 measuring 7583 yards.
Exposed to the wind but featuring tight fairways and thick rough this course is renowned for rewarding strong tee to green exponents who are comfortable in blustery conditions and a roll of honour over the past four years of Paddy’s own ambassador Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood twice and Rickie Fowler tells you all you need to know.
A stellar field is headed up by world number one Brooks Koepka, who is making his first start since a knee injury sidelined him in October.
Vying Koepka for favouritism is Patrick Cantlay, and former two time champion here Tommy Fleetwood. These are then followed by defending champion Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen and last weeks hero of the hour Branden Grace.
With my eyes firmly focused this week on players renowned as good exponents of blustery conditions I will start things off with two who fit the bill, Tom Lewis and Erik Van Rooyen.
Two time Portugal Masters Champion Lewis finished 2019 in fine style winning the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in America to earn a PGA Tour card and notching four top 13 finishes in five starts on the European Tour. The Englishman has played a lot of his best golf in links type conditions over the years and he should be looking forward to returning to a venue that saw him finish ninth last year.
🗣️ "GOLF HAD BECOME FRUSTRATING"
🏆 7 months later, he realized his biggest dream.
— Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA (@ADGolfChamps) January 13, 2020
Van Rooyen meanwhile, a winner at the Scandinavian Masters last year, who also relishes a test in the wind, returns here after finishing 32nd last year and having warmed up nicely in South Africa last week I expect a big challenge from him (currently 40/1).
With so many big names on display I am keen to include one from the front of the market and the one who catches my eye the most at the odds (currently 18/1) is defending champion Shane Lowry. Shane warmed up for his title defence by playing in the rescheduled Hong Kong Open last week and he finished the week off in perfect style by posting a final round 64 to take second place and you would have to think a return to the venue, which was the kick start to his memorable 2019 will inspire him.
To wrap things up in Abu Dhabi I can’t resist including at three figure odds Romain Langasque (currently 100/1). The Frenchman finished off 2019 really solidly and this track looks a good fit for him. Granted a maiden tour victory in this company is a big ask but with plenty of e/w juice in his price I am happy to have side with him.
Touching on this weeks action on the PGA Tour and it is a new sponsor, American Express, for a long standing event, the Desert Classic. A Pro Am played over three courses at La Quinta in the Californian desert, the host course is the Pete Dye designed TPC Stadium course, a par 72 measuring 7200yds.
In an event which threw up a huge priced winner last year and with low scoring conditions expected I am happy to roll the dice on a couple of tour rookies at big e/w prices, Bo Hoag and Matthew NeSmith.
Both winners on the Korn Ferry Tour last year it is not a huge leap to see them stepping up to win at the next level and I am happy to chance them this week.
- Abu Dhabi: Tom Lewis (40/1), Erik Van Rooyen (40/1), Shane Lowry (18/1), Romain Langasque (100/1)
- American Express Desert Classic: Bo Hoag (150/1), Matthew NeSmith (150/1)