Abu Dhabi Golf Club was once again the ‘Home of Champions’ as it welcomed 8 of the world’s top 20, including No.1 Dustin Johnson, for another thrilling opening to the European Tour’s ‘Desert Swing’ at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
And while Johnson was joined in what is historically the second strongest European Tour field of the season by four-time Major winner, Rory McIlroy, and Olympic gold medallist, Justin Rose, it was defending champion, Tommy Fleetwood who continued his winning ways around the National Course, completing back-to-back victories with a score of 22-under-par (266).
Fleetwood’s successful defence, as well as Johnson’s decision to return to the United Arab Emirates for a second consecutive year, served as a ringing endorsement for the Troon-managed Abu Dhabi Golf Club and its Peter Harradine-designed National Course.
Johnson, who followed victory in his opening event of 2018 with a tied ninth place finish on the weekend, said: “The golf course is great. It’s in really good condition – it’s a fun golf course to play. The fairways are tight, you’ve got to hit all kinds of shots. It’s definitely good preparation to see where your game is. I definitely enjoy being here in Abu Dhabi; it’s a beautiful place, the people are nice, and good food!”
Olympic Champion and world No.6, Justin Rose, also talked of being able to hone his game for the season ahead on the fairways of Abu Dhabi. He said: “This is such a great place to start the year. There’s a little bit of a switch off around Christmas, new year. Everyone wants to let the brain go soft for a few weeks and then you sort of gear back up, and this is just such a great place to start.
“The golf course here in Abu Dhabi is always in great shape. In the beginning part of the year, you want to play in places where you know you’re going to have good weather, good course conditions and obviously against a strong field. For me it’s a great place to start things off.”
These sentiments were echoed by Spain’s Ryder Cup star, Rafa Cabrera Bello, whose final round of 67 earned a T40th finish, having earned his passage to the weekend on the cutline. He said: “I love Abu Dhabi. I couldn’t think of a better a place to start the year; it’s a great golf course, one of my favourites in the world, and has beautiful weather. The greens are fast as well, this year in particular. It’s just a very fair golf course, tough, but there’s also low scores when you play good. I really love playing here.
“All over the UAE, we stay in spectacular place and here on-site at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, the clubhouse is a delight. When you come down the 9th or 18th and you have the Falcon looking down at you, it really is a special place.”
America’s seven-time PGA Tour winner, Matt Kuchar, who opted to play at Abu Dhabi Golf Club as his first event as a European Tour affiliate member, also remarked upon the famous Falcon. He said: “The clubhouse is spectacular. I’ve never seen one quite like it before. I’ve always watched on TV and then talked to a number of guys about the course coming over here and they said I would really enjoy it”.
Ed Edwards, General Manager of Abu Dhabi Golf Club, spoke of the value that testimonials from the world’s best players have for golf in the emirate. He said: “I think it speaks volumes for the quality of the course and the hospitality we offer that so many of the world’s best players choose this event to start their campaigns every year. Their incredible feedback is also of significant value to Abu Dhabi as a golfing destination.
“With the event being played in January, in perfect conditions, those watching on television from Europe are often spurred to come to the UAE. Despite being the shortest month of the year, February is without doubt the busiest in terms of rounds. This is the result of the championship.
“The event has led to the emergence of Abu Dhabi Golf Club as an internationally recognised brand, that goes hand-in-hand with some of the other event partners, like HSBC, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Emirates Global Aluminium and Tourism Development and Investment Company amongst many others who make the championship so special. The course, together with our iconic Falcon Clubhouse has become a ‘must visit’ for any golfer visiting the UAE.”
Miguel Vidaor, European Tour Tournament Director, said: “I’ve worked with the team at Abu Dhabi Golf Club for over a decade now and am happy to say that they continue to push the boundaries with this event in terms of course conditioning, quality of service and unrivalled hospitality.
“Add the perfect weather we enjoy here into the picture and it is hardly surprising that this is one of the favourite stops on the European Tour, and one which continues to attract an ever-strengthening field. This is credit to the team at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in making this a home-from-home for all competitors.”
To mark the club’s association with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, Abu Dhabi Golf Club has released a ‘Day in the Life’ video showcasing the world-renowned golf club in a way you’ll have never seen before.