Abu Dhabi Championship: Five players to watch

Joy Chakravarty 01:50 18/01/2017
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Here, Sport360 looks at the players to watch out for and the dark horses who could spring a few surprises.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

THOMAS PIETERS

World Ranking: 49

2016 Race to Dubai: 25

Last five starts: T40-T14-T34-T31-T50

Last five starts in Abu Dhabi: 2-T4-MC-DNP-DNP

Best finish in Abu Dhabi: Runner-up (2016)

Best finishes in 2016: Winner (Made in Denmark); Second (Abu Dhabi HSBC, Czech Masters)

While not in the form which saw him gain a wildcard to last year’s Ryder Cup team, he is recharged and he loves the National course. Tied fourth in 2015 and second by a shot to Fowler last year, the Belgian Bomber is trending in the right direction.

DUSTIN JOHNSON

World Ranking: 3

2016 Race to Dubai: NA

Last five starts: 2-T9-T4-1-T42

Last five starts in Abu Dhabi: Tournament debut

Best finish in Abu Dhabi: Tournament debut

Best finishes in 2016: Winner (US Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, BMW Championship)

The battle between Johnson and Rory McIlroy will not happen after the world No2’s injury withdrawal, but that should not deter the American. Known for making a fast start to his season, the National course should definitely suit his style of power golf.

HENRIK STENSON

World Ranking: 4

2016 Race to Dubai: 1

Last five starts: 2-T9-8-T2-41

Last five starts in Abu Dhabi: T3-MC-MC-T23-MC

Best finish in Abu Dhabi: Runner-up (2006 and 2008)

Best finishes in 2016: Winner (The Open Championship, BMW International Open)

Time and again Stenson has reiterated his desire to win the Falcon Trophy – it is the only Middle East silverware missing from his cabinet. The last few years, he has had issues before the tournament (not enough rest, knee surgery) but this could be the year everything falls in place for the popular star.

RICKIE FOWLER

World Ranking: 14

2016 Race to Dubai: Not eligible

Last five starts: T6-T3-8

Last five starts in Abu Dhabi: 1-T66-DNP-DNP-DNP

Best finish in Abu Dhabi: Winner (2016)

Best finishes in 2016: Winner (Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship); Second (Waste Management Phoenix Open)

The adrenaline junkie provided plenty of drama when he won here last year, making an eagle from the bunker on the eighth right after a double on seventh and chipping in on 17th to edge clear. Is determined to have his best season, so look out for him.

MARTIN KAYMER

World Ranking: 53

2016 Race to Dubai: 17

Last five starts: T19-T44-T40-6-6

Last five starts in Abu Dhabi: T16-T3-T31-T6-MC

Best finish in Abu Dhabi: Winner (2011, 2010 and 2008)

Best finishes in 2016: Fifth (Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and Open de France)

There was a time when he could do no wrong in Abu Dhabi. In a stretch of four years from 2008, he won thrice and was second once. His collapse in 2015 is now part of the tournament folklore, having lost a 10-shot lead with 13 holes to go. But the course definitely suits his eyes and Kaymer will be a threat.

DARK HORSES

THORBJON OLESEN

World Ranking: 65

2016 Race to Dubai: 12

Last three starts: T19-63-1

Best finish in 2016: Winner (Turkish Airlines Open)

Best finish in Abu Dhabi: Runner-up (2013)

The solid Dane has made the cut every year in Abu Dhabi and after a superb finish to 2016, when he won in Turkey, would like nothing more than going one step better than his previous best here.

BERND WIESBERGER

World Ranking: 40

2016 Race to Dubai: 9

Last three starts: T4-4-T35

Best finish in 2016: Second (British Masters, KLM Open)

Best finish in Abu Dhabi: T-sixth (2015)

The Austrian hasn’t done too well in his opening event of the year, but given how consistent he played in 2016, things could change in Abu Dhabi this year.

BYEONG-HUN AN

World Ranking: 50

2016 Race to Dubai: 36

Last three starts: T13-T10-T63

Best finish in 2016: T-second (Zurich Classic of New Orleans)

Best finish in Abu Dhabi: T-fifth (2016)

He followed up an excellent rookie season with another impressive outing on the European Tour. Likes the National course, where he was tied fifth last year.

RAFA CABRERA-BELLO

World Ranking: 28

2016 Race to Dubai: 8

Last three starts: T2-T23-T55

Best finish in 2016: T-second (Dubai Desert Classic, Qatar Masters)

Best finish in Abu Dhabi: Fourth (2014)

The Spaniard, who is shifting his base to Dubai this year, was easily one of the most consistent players in the world in 2016 without a win despite 10 top-10s.

TYRRELL HATTON

World Ranking: 23

2016 Race to Dubai: 4

Last three starts: T2-T25-T10

Best finish in 2016: Alfred Dunhill Championship (Winner)

Best finish in Abu Dhabi: T-sixth (2015)

Finished his season on a high in Dubai with a second place finish in DP World Tour Championship. A solid all-round player who has two top-10s in three AD starts.

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