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As usual, Abu Dhabi Golf Club stages the first event of the new DP World Tour season and… wait, what?
While the venue and its eagle-shaped clubhouse are a familiar sight, this week’s tournament name is not.
In fact, those expecting the regular 72-hole Abu Dhabi Golf Championship - a prized event won by Paul Casey, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood and Rickie Fowler - will be in for a big surprise.
This year, Abu Dhabi GC is the scene of a new team event, the Hero Cup.
It’s contested by two 10-man teams: Great Britain & Ireland and Continental Europe.
GB & Ireland: Tommy Fleetwood, Ewen Ferguson, Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry, Robert MacIntyre, Richard Mansell, Seamus Power, Callum Shinkwin, Jordan Smith, Matt Wallace.
Continental Europe: Francesco Molinari, Thomas Detry, Nicolai Hojgaard, Adrian Meronk, Guido Migliozzi, Alex Noren, Victor Perez, Thomas Pieters, Antoine Rozner, Sepp Straka.
Fleetwood and Molinari - Europe’s famous ‘Moliwood’ teammates from the 2018 Ryder Cup - are the two respective playing captains for the three-day event which is basically a revamp of the old Seve Trophy that enjoyed eight editions from 2000 to 2013 before falling off the schedule.
The format is as follows:
Friday: Foursomes (5 matches)
Saturday: Fourballs (10 matches: 5 morning, 5 afternoon)
Sunday: Singles (10 matches)
Importantly, all 20 players take part in each session and that means the winning team has to reach 13 points to claim the trophy.
The Ryder Cup, to be held in Italy later this year, is very much in mind and all 20 players were chosen by Europe’s captain for the 2023 edition, Luke Donald, in consultation with the two team captains.
As for the course, Abu Dhabi GC usually yields plenty of birdies. The lengthy par 72 is set in the desert and water is in play on 11 holes.
Thomas Pieters won the most recent Abu Dhabi Golf Championship with 10-under in 2022 but that was played at Yas Links.
The previous five were all at this week’s venue, Abu Dhabi GC, and they saw winning scores of 17-under or lower.
First thought is that GB & Ireland hold most of the aces and further inspection confirms it.
For starters, three of Fleetwood’s team have tasted victory on this course and the skipper owns two of those wins. Hatton and Lowry are the other two.
All seven of the GB & Ireland team to have played at Abu Dhabi GC in the last five years average under par there while the same applies to just five of the eight from Continental Europe.
In terms of average world rankings it’s close but again GB & Ireland are favored.
We need to be realistic here and note that most players are just coming back from Festive breaks so it’s hard to get a handle on their levels of sharpness.
Seamus Power (GB & Ireland) and Sepp Straka (Continental Europe) did contest the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii last week although neither made the top 20 and any edge is perhaps dulled by the lengthy flight and change of time zone.
Pre-tournament stakes should be modest but, overall, GB & Ireland get the nod.
Tyrrell Hatton has a phenomenal record in desert events and that includes his win at Abu Dhabi GC in 2021.
He finished sixth at Yas Links when defending last January and his two starts since in the United Arab Emirates resulted in fourth and second, the latter coming in November’s DP World Tour Championship.
Despite his quick temper, the Englishman is a real team player and in 2018 Hatton scored three points out of three in Europe’s EurAsia Cup victory against Team Asia in Malaysia.
He’s likely to be a mainstay of Europe’s bid to win back the Ryder Cup in Italy later this year and, although he has plenty of strong competitors in this market, Hatton’s brilliant and consistent desert record makes him the pick to win most points for GB & Ireland.
Take the 31-year-old World No. 26 at +550 with DraftKings Sportsbook.
It’s a fairly obvious pick but there are strong reasons to think Thomas Pieters could be the star turn for the Continental side.
The Belgian famously outscored the 23 other players on show when banking four points out of five in the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.
Clearly he’s a fan of these team events as further highlighted by his victory for Belgium alongside Thomas Detry in the 2018 World Cup and another for Team Europe in the EurAsia Trophy earlier that same year.
Pieters won at Yas Links on his last start in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago and on this week’s course he has a second, fourth and fifth so all the planets look aligned.
Back the World No. 38 to be the top Continental points scorer at +500 with DraftKings Sportsbook.
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Dave Tindall is former golf editor at SkySports.com and Golf365.com and has been writing betting previews for the PGA Tour and European Tour since 1997. He has also written for a range of betting companies, including William Hill and Betfair, as well as being a regular columnist for Rotoworld, The Guardian, Sporting Life and Planet Sport. His other area of speciality is football while he's also covered cricket and tennis.
Email: [email protected]More info on Dave Tindall
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