Ballon D’Or winner Luis Figo and former world No. 1 golfer Martin Kaymer will captain the two sides for the 2018 Abu Dhabi Invitational at the award-winning Yas Links on January 12-13.
Figo, who will captain the ‘celebrity team’, played for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan, was the world’s most expensive player in 2000 following his switch from Barcelona to Real Madrid and won domestic and European trophies with all three clubs.
“I am delighted to be captaining the ‘celebrity team’ in the Abu Dhabi Invitational. I have heard great things about Yas Links and the tournament. We look forward to the challenge of facing Martin’s pro team and will leave no stone unturned to win the trophy. Regardless of the result, it’s great to be involved in such a unique charity tournament,” said Figo.
Kaymer is a two-time major championship winner and has also featured in three victorious European Ryder Cup teams. He was ranked as the No. 1 golfer in the Official World Golf Ranking for eight weeks in 2011.
Kaymer commented: “I’ve always enjoyed playing and winning in Abu Dhabi, so it really does feel like a second home to me. The Yas Links course is excellent and I’m excited to be captain. This year, the pro team will be playing off +7, which will mean we need to play some great golf to retain the trophy – but hopefully our amateur partners will play their part!”
Promising to be an unforgettable two days of golf, the Abu Dhabi Invitational is renowned as one of the world’s most prestigious Pro-Celebrity tournaments.
Founded in 2007 by Abdullah Al Naboodah, it has become a must-play for celebrities and professional golfers alike where they are paired with a VIP amateur guest in a Ryder Cup Fourball format.
2017 saw Paul McGinley’s Pro Team win by 13½ points to 6½ over Peter Schmeichel’s Celebrity team, which featured footballing stars Ruud Gullit and Roberto Di Matteo, rugby union World Cup winner Mike Tindall, cricketing legend Jacques Kallis and international popstar Ronan Keating.
The two-day event comprises of the Amateur Championship on Friday, January 12, with invited sponsor and stakeholder guests, before the main Invitational on Saturday, January 13. Both days are open to members of the public and the tournament will once again be raising money for charity.
— Abu Dhabi Invitational (@ADInvitational) December 29, 2017
Aref Hamad Al Awani, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), said: “We are delighted that Luis and Martin will be playing The Abu Dhabi Invitational this year. Luis is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in world football, whilst Martin is a former World No. 1 in the sport of golf. We’re looking forward to announcing the other stars in the coming weeks.”
Howie Roberts, General Manager of Yas Links, said he was thrilled to see the Invitational return to Yas Links.
“Hosting the Abu Dhabi Invitational is always special and we’re delighted to see it return for the fifth year. It is a chance to showcase this fantastic golf course, alongside Yas Island’s global entertainment and hospitality facilities, to an international audience. It is always a wonderful event and we are proud to host it here at Yas Links,” said Roberts.
The season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai was not quite the same without Henrik Stenson but there is good news for UAE golf fans – he’s back in action next month.
The ‘Iceman’ has shaken off a rib injury to confirm his appearance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA between January 18-21 ahead of a big 2018 in which Europe will aim to wrest back the Ryder Cup.
Stenson sat down with Sport360° about his plans for the year and how a talent-rich American team will be nothing for the Europeans to fear at Le Golf National.
How has your recovery been?
It is going fine, thank you. I have had a rest and proper break and I’m now looking forward to the New Year and getting myself ready for Eurasia Cup and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
How have you spent your time away from the game?
I have been spending time with my family. It has been a real treat as there was so much fun to be had in the build-up to Christmas hanging out with the kids.
How important is it to get off to a flying start in January in what is a Ryder Cup year?
My first event will be the EurAsia Cup with captain Thomas Bjorn at the helm so that is definitely going to mean that the Ryder Cup is at the front of my mind at the start of the year. I definitely want to get off to a good start in 2018 and would love to secure my place in the team as early as possible in the season so there isn’t too much stress as September approaches.
You’ve won in Dubai three times but not at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship yet. Are you a fan of the course?
I really like the course and enjoy the tournament very much. I have played in every single Abu Dhabi tournament since it begun in 2006 so I think you can guess how much I like it and how much I would love to win that Falcon Trophy. I have had two second place finishes and was tied third in 2016. Last year, I opened up with a 64 so it definitely feels like the course suits me well.
Did you watch the DP World Tour Championship? What did you make of the tournament?
I was really sorry to miss out on playing this year. Although I didn’t get to watch too much golf as I was busy with my family, it looked like a fantastic week with plenty of excitement as Tommy (Fleetwood) and Justin (Rose)went head to head for the Race to Dubai honours while Jon (Rahm) claimed the title to underline his Rookie of the Year Award.
How many rookies can you remember who have had as good a year as Jon Rahm?
That is a tough one to answer as there have been some real stand out rookies over my years on Tour. Jon has had an amazing year and obviously did great in his rookie season on the PGA Tour last year. It is definitely a great boost for the European Ryder Cup team to have such a talented young star storm up the rankings as he has done.
The likes of Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton could all be Ryder Cup rookies next year. How strong is this potential European rookie class?
They are a strong group for sure with plenty of wins and a lot of experience already under their belts. With their rankings now up there, they should also get a lot of really valuable opportunities between now and the Ryder Cup in Paris to play against the American guys and gain even more experience.
With Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth winning three of the majors last year – is this potentially the strongest American team we’ve seen for some time?
No doubt the US team have some great players in their line up for 2018.
But, on paper, there have been plenty of times when they’ve looked to be dominant ahead of the match in previous years and then it has all worked out a little bit differently once the match gets going.
You’ve also got the EurAsia cup, but how useful is it as a warm-up to the real thing in September?
It is a great event in its own right and we will be very focused on trying to get the win for Europe, But, also, it will also allow Thomas an opportunity to play around with pairings and see how everyone’s chemistry is in the group.
Also, hanging out in a team environment together is always a pleasure and a really nice start to the year.
How good is it to see Tiger Woods back on the course and what would be a successful comeback season for him?
He had a great week at the Hero World Challenge.
I think a successful season for Tiger would be one where he plays injury free.
We all know what he can achieve when he is healthy so let’s hope he can stay healthy and we can enjoy watching Tiger regularly.
For the most part you’ve avoided injury heading into your 40s, what’s the secret to looking after yourself?
I have had my share of injuries, a couple of knee surgeries and some wear and tear but over all I have been quite lucky.
Obviously, I go to the gym and train and practice hard so I am in peak condition when I compete but I don’t think there is any particular secret.
I think it is important to listen to your body and if it does not feel right, you shouldn’t play and make your injury worse.
The award-winning Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA has opened registration for its popular volunteers programme ahead of the tournament from January 18-21, 2018.
The pristine Abu Dhabi Golf Club will once again play host to the ‘best of the best’ next year, where volunteers will not only have a chance to get inside the ropes with the likes of reigning champion Tommy Fleetwood, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and super Swede Henrik Stenson, but there’s also a host of other exciting incentives.
Accepted volunteers will be briefed before the event and will receive their championship uniform to wear throughout the week while they work.
Marshals, mobile scoreboard operators and walking scorers are just a few of the roles volunteers can take on, providing a unique insight into this world-class event in the UAE capital.
Apart from the delicious all-day catering, drinks and snacks are available at the Volunteers HQ. After each shift the volunteers will receive a voucher to spend at the food trucks in the Championship Village.
A Certificate of Service will be given to each volunteer once the championship is over and they can attend the post-event party (over-18’s only) at the volunteer tent, as well as a have their photo taken with the 2018 winner.
Peter German, the championship’s tournament director said: “With each year we offer the volunteers programme and the great opportunities available, its popularity grows. The volunteers play a key role in helping us deliver a successful tournament year on year, so we’re thankful to all those – both living in the UAE and from abroad – who have participated in the past. And to those for this year’s championship I look forward to welcoming you all in January.”
One such dedicated volunteer was Bernard Dowling, a 79-year-old who has volunteered at every championship since its inception and has flown from the UK to do so.
His role each year was to collect the bibs off players and caddies after they finish on the 18th, but this year Dowling has also decided to hang up his own bib, making the 2017 edition his final championship.