The first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship takes place on Thursday with the entire field looking to get off to a good start to the tournament and put themselves in with a shot of earning some of the Rolex Series riches that this event carries.
This is the first real big round of the season and after some lesser events have allowed some players to fine tune their games, we are set for one of the best days of golfing action of the campaign so far, with a field packed with star quality.
First Round Leader
As ever with these events the first thing we are going to have a look at is the first round leader where in this tournament there is a clear bias with those who tee it up in the morning. Seven of the last nine men to have held the first round lead here went out in the morning and that is likely to follow suit here with soft conditions first up and the wind picking up a little in the afternoon. With that in mind I’ll take a couple of Englishmen who are out early who could go low here.
Andy Sullivan showed signs of coming back to form towards the end of last season with a decent spin in Portugal and another in Dubai and he followed that up last week with a sixth placed finish in South Africa so he is going along alright at the present time. Sullivan was second in the strokes gained on approach in South Africa last week which is a real positive around here and at 80/1 he is a decent price. Ross Fisher is another one who has the credentials to go well here. He might still be wondering how he didn’t win this tournament a couple of years ago and while he probably hasn’t got four great rounds in him he still has the odd decent one. With conditions in his favour I’ll have a dabble at a big price.
Thursday 3 Balls
As ever in this tournament the field go out in threes in the opening round and they go off the first and tenth tees in the morning and the afternoon. The two marquee groups in the morning go out off the tenth tee with Sergio Garcia, Patrick Cantlay and Bernd Wiesberger in one of them and Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry in the other. The leading groups in the afternoon sees Bryson DeChambeau, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Branden Grace out alongside each other as well as Lee Westwood, Eddie Pepperell and Ian Poulter out in another group.
I have scoured the groups, which with this being a Rolex Series event have all been priced up, and I’ve come up with one bet which comes among the later starters where there is an outsider who is a big price based on last week’s events.
Bryson DeChambeau/Matthew Fitzpatrick/Branden Grace
Match tees off at 08.05 GMT
One of the big groups in the afternoon wave of players sees the American star Bryson DeChambeau, the European Tour heavyweight Matthew Fitzpatrick and the winner of the South African Open last week in Branden Grace.
I’ll be interested to see the dynamic in this group. Fitzpatrick is a known hater of slow play and DeChambeau is one of the slowest the game has to offer at the present time so I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see the Englishman get frustrated here. I don’t see it affecting the American unless there is a clash between the two but either way Grace looks a big price at 2/1 here.
He should be bouncing full of confidence after winning last week and while that sort of thing can catch up with a player it usually comes later in the competition. Grace is an excellent finder of greens, putted well last week and is familiar and competent in the wind – all traits needed to be successful around here. You can make a case for all three in this group but with the elephant on the fairways I’ll go with the South African star.
Back A.Sullivan First Round Leader (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
Back R.Fisher First Round Leader (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
Back B.Grace to beat B.DeChambeau & M.Fitzpatrick for a 3/10 stake at 3.00 with William Hill
Back him here: