Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship Betting Preview

Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi.

Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: European Tour Twitter account @European_Tour

Now that the pomp and circumstance regarding Rory McIlroy’s decision to switch over to Nike is complete, we can focus on this week’s marquee golf event, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. As you can see from the picture above, star power will not be lacking this week as both McIlroy and Tiger Woods will be making their season debuts in Abu Dhabi. A loaded field has made the journey overseas to join the Nike duo, including Ernie Els, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, and three-time winner of this event, Martin Kaymer.
2013 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship Fact Sheet

  • Course: Abu Dhabi GC
  • Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • Yardage: 7,600 yards, par 72
  • Defending Champion: Robert Rock

TV Schedule:

  • Wednesday – 10:30 PM to 8:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Thursday – 11:00 PM to 8:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)

The first thing to note about Abu Dhabi GC is the length. The course is an absolute beast, measuring in at 7,600 yards, which is almost 1,000 yards longer than last week’s Volvo Golf Champions at Durban GC. You’d think that would place a premium on driving distance, but going back to 2008, a player in the top-5 in driving distance that week has come away victorious only once. However, the leaders in par-4 scoring have won in four of the last five years at the event.
Chris Card, the General Manager of Abu Dhabi GC told Sky Sports’ Dave Tindall that the course is in fantastic shape, just like it’s been in the past. Typically when you see that, the winning score gets lower and lower. Robert Rock’s winning score of 13-under par last year was the highest winning number in tournament history, a full eleven shots behind Martin Kaymer’s 24-under par total from 2011. The rough hasn’t been grown out as high as it was last year prior to the event, so you can expect the score to jump back up a few shots. While the course itself isn’t known for its difficulty level, it is one of the more visually appealing courses out there, with great views of the surrounding landscape. Also helping to keep the scores low this week should be the weather, as there’s nothing but sun and little wind in the forecast.
Flyovers for each hole are in the below playlist:

Key Storyline This Week
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have once again “randomly” been paired up for the opening two rounds of the event, so the bromance will continue for at least the first two days. The focus is always on them when they play in an event, but they’ve been paired with Martin Kaymer, who has won this event three times and also has a solo second. It won’t shock anyone to see Kaymer outscore both Nike men this week. The trio tees off at 7:40 AM local time, 10:40 PM ET, which falls right into Golf Channel’s broadcast window.
Suggested plays
I’m not crazy about either McIlroy or Woods this week, but if you’re interested they are currently sitting at roughly 5-1 an 7-1 respectively. If I had a suggestion on either, I’d lean slightly towards Woods.
Martin Kaymer (Best Odds 10-1 at Bet365)
It’s hard to not like Kaymer this week. Yes, he missed the cut here last year, but that was when he was going through a rough patch of play, including a swing change that he finally started to feel comfortable with near the end of last season. He was inside the top-11 in four of his last seven events in 2012, and had a decent showing at the Ryder Cup, which included hitting the winning putt for Europe. As I said above, three wins and a second in this event, but he also loves the area with a second and two fourth place finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic. He’s being overshadowed by Woods and McIlroy this week, which is exactly how he likes things.
Justin Rose (Best Odds 16-1 at Betfair)
I’m assuming that the reason you can get Rose at 16-1 is based on him never playing the course, but the number is too high for a player with his ability. He’s undoubtedly the third best player in the field behind Woods and McIlroy, and he does have a pair of runner up finishes previously in the area, along with six top-10’s in his last ten events worldwide. Great value, especially on an each-way bet for one of the best players in the world.
Paul Casey (Best Odds 30-1 at Bet365)
This one will probably come back to haunt me, but I really like Paul Casey this week. He’s won the tournament twice in the past (2007 and 2009) and had a good run last week in South Africa. It’s hard to believe that someone this talented has fallen to 121st in the world, but most of that can be attributed to injuries. There’s no better place for him to make a statement about where his game is than somewhere he’s comfortable, and Abu Dhabi GC is that place.
George Coetzee (Best Odds 47-1 at Betfair)
Coetzee might be the most anonymous player inside the top-50 in the world, but the guy can flat out play. He doesn’t have a win on a tour larger than South Africa’s Sunshine Tour, but he does have twenty top-10 finishes in the last three seasons, including two last year in the UAE. I don’t think he gets his first win this week, but he’s a great each-way bet at that price.
Thongchai Jaidee (Best Odds 94-1 at Betfair)
This is my dartboard special, and it’s based purely on form. Jaidee has five top-10’s in his last six starts, including last week in South Africa. He’s also been inside the top-15 four times at Abu Dhabi GC, and has enjoyed prior success in the area. The field’s pretty stiff this week, but an each-way bet at 94-1 represents some really good value.
Other things to watch:

  • The most underrated performance of last week? Padraig Harrington in South Africa. He ended up with a solo 4th at Durban, and it went so far under the radar that I didn’t even mention him in my recap. He hasn’t won a tournament since the 2008 PGA Championship, and didn’t play for Europe in the Ryder Cup at Medinah in September, which he has mentioned as a motivating factor in getting his career going again. He hasn’t exactly struggled recently, but this was just the start he needed to 2013, and he’s in the field this week in an event where he’s had success in the past.
  • When Robert Rock won this event last year, he came from relative obscurity. The win moved him from 117th to 55th in the world rankings, but he hasn’t had a great time since the victory, as he’s fallen all the way back to 104th. If he’s looking to get back on track, this could be the week.

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