2014 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship Betting Preview

Phil Mickelson (Courtesy: hubsterdisney)

Phil Mickelson (Courtesy: hubsterdisney)

Phil Mickelson makes his first appearance in Abu Dhabi since 2011, as he travels to the UAE with a loaded field for the 2014 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

2014 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: Jamie Donaldson
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Phil Mickelson

TV Schedule

  • Thursday – 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Sunday – 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)

Key Storyline(s) This Week

At this time last year, we were anxiously awaiting the debut of Rory McIlroy and his new Nike gear, and well, he disappointed incredibly, as did Tiger Woods. You’ll recall that this was the tournament where Tiger incurred his first rules violation of the year, missing the cut by a shot after having to take a two-stroke penalty. Rory missed the cut on his own, and while Tiger isn’t here this week, Rory will be looking for some redemption and he is coming off of a win in his last start. He’ll be the focus for the week in Abu Dhabi, as he usually is when he tees it up. Outside of Rory, there is a couple of other things to watch:

  • Phil hasn’t been to Abu Dhabi since 2011, preferring to play at the Humana last year. His appearance fee, allegedly $2 million, likely played a big part in that. Much like Rory, he’s always going to have a lot of eyes on him when he plays.
  • It’s a loaded field as mentioned above, with some of the hottest players in the world showing up this week, including Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Luke Donald.
  • Justin Rose was committed to the event, but had to pull out with a shoulder injury.

Abu Dhabi GC

As you can see from the yardage above, Peter Harradine designed Abu Dhabi GC in 1998 to be a beast at 7600 yards. When the European Tour first started coming here back in 2006, it was considered a place for low scores, but that hasn’t been the case in the last two years, with the stroke average being over par at 72.25 and 72.27 in 2013 and 2012. The 567 yard par-5 18th is the signature hole, with a massive green and water guarding the right side of a winding fairway. Bunkers are present throughout as well, as players approach the tremendous clubhouse behind the green. Over the past five years, it has been either the easiest or the second easiest hole on the course.

A playlist of course flyovers is embedded below.

Thoughts On The Favourites

  • Rory McIlroy: As mentioned above, Rory missed the cut here last year, but prior to that, he had enjoyed some incredible success at the course. If you ignore last year, he hasn’t finished outside of 11th in five appearances, with only one of his twenty rounds being over par. Also remember that he won in his last start.
  • Henrik Stenson: Is Stenson still the hottest player on the planet? Four straight top-10’s with a win and a runner-up, and if it wasn’t for Sergio Garcia playing lights out in Thailand in his last start, Stenson would have had another win. He’s had an interesting time at Abu Dhabi GC too, with three top-10s, including two runner-ups, but the last time for any of those was 2008. Since then, MC-T21-T42-MC-T23.
  • Sergio Garcia: If Stenson isn’t the hottest player in the world, Garcia has an argument. He won his last time out in Thailand, and hasn’t been outside of the top-20 since last August, spanning seven tournaments. In five prior appearances, he’s never finished outside of the top-14, with only one of his twenty rounds being over par.
  • Martin Kaymer: We hear about the “horse for the course” pretty much every week, and it definitely applies to Kaymer here at Abu Dhabi GC. In seven appearances, he’s missed two cuts, but also has a T6 last year, a runner-up and three wins. He’s also been playing some steady golf too, with seven consecutive top-25 finishes.
  • Phil Mickelson: When Phil was here in 2011, he didn’t do anything disastrous with rounds of 71-70-72-70, but it wasn’t nearly good enough as he finished tied for 37th. He had a great year in 2013 as we all know, but it’s tough to know what to expect of him this week. He hasn’t played since early November, and he also hasn’t cracked the top-10 since the Barclays in August. Also typically a slow starter to the season.

Suggested Plays

Sergio Garcia (Best Odds 10-1 at Boylesports)

If you’re going to back one of the favourites this week, I think it needs to be Sergio based on quality of play and track record. I’m of the opinion that Sergio is in for a big year in 2014 based on his improved putting, and back-to-back wins is definitely within reach here.

Luke Donald (Best Odds 27-1 at Betfair)

Donald had a terrible 2013, but he salvaged part of it by defending his Dunlop Phoenix trophy in Japan at the end of November. I’m always of the opinion that he’s too good to be available at this kind of price, so that’s the main logic here considering he doesn’t have the best track record at the course. Only one of his eight career rounds at the course is under 70, and he isn’t the longest hitter out there, but I think he cracks the top-5 this week, and maybe more.

Joost Luiten (Best Odds 28-1 at Skybet)

Luiten is in great form, coming off of a tie for third place last week at the Volvo Golf Champions. His T6 last year shows that he has had some success here, and he also finished well in his last trip to the UAE at last year’s DP World Tour Championship.

Branden Grace (Best Odds 35-1 at bet365)

Battled hard after an opening round 74 to finish one shot back of Louis Oosthuizen last week at the Volvo, and his final round 65 here last year got him back into the top-5 as well. He won’t be intimidated by the length of the course, and I’m fully of the opinion that Grace is the most underrated player in the world right now. Great value at 35-1 here in this spot.

Matteo Manassero (Best Odds 70-1 at Spreadex)

Last week, I was concerned about Manassero’s switch to Callaway, but he played well enough at the Volvo to give me confidence to take him in this spot. He’s had some mixed results here in the past, but there is a top-10 in there as well. He’s supposed to be getting some extra distance with the new Callaway gear as well, which he’ll desperately need at this course.

Miguel Angel Jimenez (Best Odds 94-1 at Betfair)

The Mechanic has played well here in the past, and really shouldn’t be available at this price in any tournament, but it speaks to the quality of the field. Four consecutive top-20’s, including his win in Hong Kong in the middle of December. Of everyone around this kind of number, he presents the best value, in my opinion.

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