The award-winning Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, which each January launches the Desert Swing as part of the European Tour, will see defending champion and the 2017 European Tour prize money winner Tommy Fleetwood go head-to-head with World Number One, Dustin Johnson, four-time Major winner, Rory McIlroy and 2016 Open Champion and Olympic Silver Medallist, Henrik Stenson. With three of the world’s top ten, Abu Dhabi will welcome another stunning line-up of the world’s best at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, 18 - 21 January.
The headlining pack will be joined by American Ryder Cup star and Olympic Bronze Medallist, Matt Kuchar, making his debut, two-time championship winner Paul Casey who has had a remarkable 2017, with a strong performance at the Masters and the Bridgestone invitational. The Championship has boasted the strongest field of the 2017 European Tour season, outside of the Majors and WGCs and is renowned for delivering a world-class field year on year.
The Official World Golf Ranking’s list has also confirmed that the 2017 edition of the Championship featured in it’s top-30 tournament list, due to the Championship’s strength of field ranking, which is calculated by the number of Top-30 and Top-200 world ranked players competing at the event. Previous championships have seen over 80,000 spectators attend in person, as well as broadcast reach consistently exceeding 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 by the news that top golfing talent will be on display in Abu Dhabi. Over the four-day championship, 126 players will compete for a total prize purse of $3,000,000 and increase of $300,000 from previous years.
Rory McIlroy will be returning to Abu Dhabi despite struggling with injury for much of 2017. However the Championship should suit McIlroy perfectly having played the course several times before and with his focus having shifted to the 2018 Masters rather than the end of the 2017 campaign, Abu Dhabi will be the perfect tournament to kick-start his year.
McIlroy said: “I am looking for a strong start in 2018 and I feel that Abu Dhabi is the perfect place to open my season’s campaign. Having come really close here on more than one occasion, I will be completely focused on trying to win the coveted Falcon Trophy and getting myself back into the winners’ circle – that would be a real confidence boost to start the New Year.”
Johnson is looking to start 2018 in Abu Dhabi with the same form that has seen him reach number one on the Official World Golf Rankings and also cement a place in history, as he joined Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, as one of only four golfers in PGA Tour history to win a title in each of their first 10 seasons, including their rookie year. Renowned as one of the PGA Tour’s longest drivers, he’ll feel right at home in Abu Dhabi.
Johnson commented: “Abu Dhabi is great, it’s a fun course to play and I felt I played really well during my first appearance there, aside from my first day troubles with the putter of course. I am sure this year I’ll put myself in a good position to compete and hopefully I can go one better than 2017. Aside from the majors, 2017 has been a really good year for me winning a multitude of titles and hopefully Abu Dhabi can act as the perfect springboard for me in 2018.”
Swede Henrik Stenson returns to Abu Dhabi with 12 years of National Course experience and will be looking to win a tournament that has so far eluded him. The two-time runner-up, finished in eighth place in 2017:
Stenson said: “Coming out of Christmas the Championship will be very much at the forefront of my mind and I am hoping that 2018 will finally be my year. I know the UAE well having lived there for almost 10 years and think the course is magnificent, particularly the 18th hole, Par 5, whose green is surrounded by the grandstand. Having played every year, the inaugural Championship will always live long in the memory having come so close to winning the title.”
Paul Casey has had a strong start to the 2018 PGA Tour season with a T7 at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, a T11 at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and a T19 at the CJ Cup in Korea, all of which were last month.
Casey will be looking to build on his strong start to the season and continue his recent fine form in January: “Abu Dhabi is an incredibly special place for me, having won the Championship twice. After a strong start to the season so far, I’m confident heading into the Championship and know what it takes to get the job done. It would be great if I could equal Martin’s record there!”
Matt Kuchar has posted a strong 2017 season, almost going all the way on a couple of occasions. Undoubtedly his best performance was his second place at the Open Championship, followed by a tied fourth place at the Masters. He’ll be hoping to go one better at the 2018 championship.
Kuchar commented: “I have heard so many good things about the Championship from my friends on the tour. I am very excited to finally be playing in Abu Dhabi and experience everything it has to offer. Despite there being a lot of emerging talent coming up through the ranks, I am confident that if I can keep up my rich vein form from 2017 I’ll be well-placed come Abu Dhabi in January.”
Justin Rose has also announced his attendance at the 2018 Championship. The Brit recently won the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions tournament, so will no doubt be looking to start 2018 in the same vein: “Starting 2018 off in the Abu Dhabi sun is something many of the players on tour look forward to,” said Rose. “I’ve had a strong end to 2017 and I’ll be hoping to carry on that momentum as I arrive in the capital once again.
“It’s a really enjoyable yet testing course which gives us players a challenge each round, and I’m sure I’m not the only one looking to take the Falcon Trophy off Tommy this year.”
His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, which hosts the annual championship, said:
“We have consistently attracted the game’s biggest names these past 12 editions and we are all anticipating another thrilling week of golf having in the past welcomed the likes of Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. This announcement shows our commitment to maintain the calibre of field,” said Al Awani. “We have also, together with the unwavering eight-year support of our headline supporter HSBC, built an off-course offering which is the envy of many and a significant draw in its own right – we are enhancing this further with the support of our recently welcomed presenting partner, EGA.”
David Kotheimer Deputy CEO and COO UAE, HSBC Bank Middle East Limited added: “We are thrilled by the announcement of such a stellar field for the 2018 edition of The Championship. As we tee off the eighth year of our sponsorship, it is satisfying to reflect on HSBC’s role working alongside the Abu Dhabi Sports Council to cement this event as the jewel in the crown of Middle Eastern golf. The new partnership with EGA is exciting and will only help strengthen the event’s profile further. We have a combined desire to drive the game forward and further inspire a new generation of golfers. This is great news for golf in the region.”
The tournament, held at the showpiece Abu Dhabi Golf Club, was recently renamed as the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
The deal means that EGA is now backing both key UAE championships on the early-start Desert Swing – the other being the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. EGA is the only company to sponsor both events.
Abdulla Kalban, Managing Director and CEO of EGA, said: “This is the first time this great Championship will be presented by EGA, and as always the line-up promises a fantastic competition. I expect the 2018 Championship will once again bring together many in the Abu Dhabi community as well as putting a global spotlight on the capital.”
In a positive move for UAE golfers, this year the organising committee confirmed that it will re-introduce an 18 hole Qualifying Tournament to provide opportunities for local pros and amateurs to compete at the 2018 Championship. Both male professionals and male amateur golfers with a handicap of scratch or better (as of 1st November 2017), will be invited to Saadiyat Beach Golf Club on Monday 11th December for their chance to qualify. Two qualifying spots (one professional and one amateur) will be available for the two entrants who return the lowest 18 hole medal score together in their respective category. If one or both of these two spots are not taken by an Emirati, then the highest ranked Emirati, professional or amateur, will also earn a place to play alongside some of the world’s best at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
The 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA will run from January 18 – January 21 with Abu Dhabi Sports Council looking to top this year’s turnout of over 69,000 spectators. 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 and a share in the US $3 million prize purse.