The European Tour’s Gulf Swing has long signified the first seasonal call to clubs for the continent’s best players and 2014 is no different as some of the top golfers on the planet get set to play competitively for the first time in the calendar year.
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is the opening event of a trio of tournaments staged in the Middle East and the re-emergence from a brief winter hibernation of Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia – to name the top three in the betting – confirms a high quality line up ready to tee off amongst the sand dunes.
The last two winners of this event, though, suggest that the leaderboard will not be the sole preserve of those at the head of the market. The defending champion is Jamie Donaldson, who was a 66/1 shot last year, while Robert Rock secured success in 2012 when going off as a 150/1 chance.
Still, prior to that Martin Kaymer won the last of his three Abu Dhabi titles at a single figure price, while Paul Casey has also won twice at the desert track since it’s inclusion on the tour suggesting the 7,600-yard layout is a horses for courses venue.
If that is the case then Stenson, at 8/1, is the standout bet amongst the market principles. The world’s best player over the last six months can boast two runners-up finishes at Abu Dhabi GC and as a player who regularly tops the greens in regulation numbers – the key stats category this week – he cannot be ignored.Good as McIlroy was when winning in Australia last month, it wasn’t as impressive as Stenson’s march toward to the DP World Tour Championship crown in November. The Swede was meant to be struggling with injury but won at a canter.
Elsewhere, Joost Luiten and Branden Grace smack of value, priced at 25/1 and 33/1 respectively. The Dutch golfer has found his form with the putter recently and was third in Durban last week. Luiten was fourth in Dubai behind Stenson in November and sixth in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago. Grace denied Luiten a place finish in this event in 2013 and comes into this week off the back of successive top six efforts in which he ranked inside the top ten in GIR on both occasions.
My three off the tee – Stenson, Luiten and Grace.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £50 in free bets.