Spieth confirmed for Abu Dhabi Championship along with McIlroy

Joy Chakravarty 05:38 12/11/2015
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Gulf-bound: Jordan Spieth.

Jordan Spieth, the 22-year-old phenomenon whose two major wins this year saw him climb to No. 1 in the world, will make his UAE debut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January.

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The 11th year of the $2.7 million European Tour event has once again attracted a stellar field, with three other top-seven players in the world – No. 3 Rory McIlroy, No. 5 Rickie Fowler and No. 7 Henrik Stenson – also confirming their presence when action begins on January 21 at the National course of Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Stenson has played in each of the 10 championships held so far, while it would be the ninth Abu Dhabi start for McIlroy, in which he has finished runner-up four times.

Fowler made his Abu Dhabi debut this year when he finished tied 66th. So each of them will be looking to hoist the ‘Falcon Trophy’ for the first time on January 24.

Spieth won the first two majors of the season – the Masters and the US Open – and was in contention at the Open Championship, where he finished tied fourth just one shot behind the champion, and runner-up in the PGA Championship, where Jason Day was the runaway champion. 

He also won three other titles on the PGA Tour, including the Tour Championship, and was the FedEx Cup champion. 

The young Texan said he was looking forward to his first visit to Abu Dhabi and said Fowler had a role to play in him saying yes.

“I am looking forward to coming to Abu Dhabi, especially after Rickie told me about what a fantastic event it is,” said Spieth. “I love to travel and see the world and I am excited to not only play in the event but also checking out Abu Dhabi for the first time.”

Spieth started his new season on the PGA Tour at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week, where he managed a top-10 finish and shot a 63 in the third round. He is expected to play in the Australian Open and Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge before the end of the year and then head to Abu Dhabi for his first event of 2016.

But Spieth will have to get the better of McIlroy on a golf course where he has six top-five finishes over the years. And the four-time major champion is relishing the early challenge in the new season.

“Abu Dhabi always brings an outstanding player field, and with Jordan and Rickie competing, this will be a superb test for me to start off the 2016 season,” said the Northern Irishman.

“I’ve come close in Abu Dhabi several times now, so I’ll be 100 per cent ready.” Fowler believes a good start in Abu Dhabi will pave the way for a strong 2016 season.

“The past two years have been pivotal in my career,” said Fowler, who has climbed the world rankings on the back of some big wins, including the Players Championship on the PGA Tour this year.

“Getting three wins under my belt this year and coming so close in the four majors in 2014 has given me confidence,” added Fowler, who also won the Scottish Open this year.

“I’m feeling more comfortable with my game than ever, and I’m looking forward to starting with a tough test against some of the big names in Abu Dhabi.”

Stenson has won every other title in the Middle East, but the Falcon Trophy has somehow eluded him. He said: “Abu Dhabi is very close to my heart. I’m one of only 14 players to have competed every year in Abu Dhabi since the first event in 2006, and I’ve always enjoyed starting my season there.

“After two runner-up finishes, it’s no secret that I would love to win on the National course. I’m going into my second decade of starting in Abu Dhabi, so it would be something very special for me.”

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