Defending Champion Tommy Fleetwood, World No.1 Dustin Johnson, four time Major Champion Rory McIlroy, Olympic gold, silver and bronze medallists, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar and past champions Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer were joined by a host of the world’s best golfers to mark the new year in Abu Dhabi.
In a back-to-school style class photo with the iconic Falcon Clubhouse of the Abu Dhabi Golf club serving as a dramatic backdrop, the strength of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA field, taking place 18 - 21 January, was displayed in all its glory.
The 126-man line-up includes six of the world’s top 15 ranked players, eleven major champions with 18 major titles between them, 26 Ryder Cup players, seven former Abu Dhabi champions, 397 European Tour victories, 94 PGA Tour wins, 87 of the top 100 on the final 2017 European Tour Ranking and 30 nationalities represented.
Last year’s Championship boasted the 2nd strongest field on the 2017 European Tour season - not including the Majors & World Golf Championships and this year’s looks set to be even better as the golf stars were joined in the photo by two falcons and avid golf grass fan Colin the camel.
Dustin Johnson underlined his credentials as World No.1 with a resounding win at PGA TOUR’S Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month commenting:
“Seeing everyone lined up for this photo makes you realize the magnitude of this event and the strength of the field. I am excited to be back in Abu Dhabi with these great players and look forward to battling for the falcon trophy. In the meantime it was awesome to get to handle a live falcon and hang out with Colin the camel.”
Rory McIlroy, playing in his first event since early October, is raring to go ahead of the new season. He enthused:
“This back to school photo theme feels especially fitting for this week. I feel great about everything I have done to prepare in the offseason over the past months and am really looking forward to getting out there and competing. The Championship has gathered yet another world-class field and catching up with so many of the guys makes me look forward to kicking the season off on Thursday even more.”
His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, who joined the photo call said:
“When I see these great international players gathered in front of the famous Falcon Clubhouse I feel very proud of how far golf in Abu Dhabi has come since our first Championship back in 2006. Abu Dhabi is committed to delivering world-class sporting events and as you can see from the many golf stars taking part in this photo call, our 2018 field of players, including the stand-out World No.1, more than lives up to this expectation.
Abdulfattah Sharaf, HSBC Group General Manager, Chief Executive Officer UAE & Head of International said:
“Abu Dhabi has become known as the starting point of the global golfing season, with the annual star-studded field lining up at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club one of the most important events in the golf world’s calendar. Our partnership has helped drive the game forward in the UAE, with world class sporting entertainment for the entire family, on and off the course, enabling us to introduce even more people to this wonderful game and make golf even more accessible.”
Abdulla Kalban, Managing Director and CEO of EGA said:
“We are delighted that the week is finally here and are very much looking forward to our first Championship in the role of presenting partner. It is wonderful to be associating EGA with such a prestigious event and we are very much looking forward to the week ahead and the 2018 edition.”
Previous championships have seen over 60,000 spectators attend, as well as broadcast consistently reaching over 450 million viewers, so the 13th edition will be looking to go one better in 2018, surpassing previous record numbers. Spectators will be particularly thrilled over the four-day championship, as 126 players will compete for a total prize purse of $3,000,000 - an increase of $300,000 from previous years.
The 2017 tournament grew the championship’s social media following by over 65% and the HD TV coverage, with a potential reach of almost half a billion viewers, allowed a global audience to watch the world’s best vie for the coveted Falcon Trophy.