Expert Picks: HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship


This week marks the first event of the European Tour's three-week Desert Swing, as many of the game's best tee it up at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. It's also the first two-event week for fantasy in 2014, as our experts' picks for the PGA Tour's Humana Challenge can be seen HERE. Each week, a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players, based on Golf Channel's fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel includes: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributor John Hawkins; editorial director Jay Coffin; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams; staff writer Ryan Lavner and defending fantasy champion Charlie Rymer.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Following a difficult 2013, the former world No. 1 seems poised to regain his world-beater form and has played some of his best golf in the United Arab Emirates.

Group 2: Branden Grace: He was stellar to start the European Tour season in South Africa, finishing sixth and second in consecutive starts, and has something to prove in 2014 following a poor Presidents Cup showing at Muirfield Village.

Group 3: Dawie van der Walt: Although not well known to American audiences, the South African won the Nelson Mandela Championship in December and is poised for a breakthrough season.

Group 4: Robert Rock: He stunned Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, among others, in 2012 at the Abu Dhabi stop when he ranked 117th in the world. Imagine the surprise if he did it again, this time from the 314th position in the world ranking?

Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: A believer once more, especially with five top-11 finishes in his last six starts worldwide. Throw out last year's clunker and he's never finished worse than 11th in Abu Dhabi.

Group 2: Jamie Donaldson: The defending champion here has been on fire recently, with five consecutive top 15s.

Group 3: Simon Dyson: Given the cold shoulder by his peers in the wake of the cheating scandal, Dyson could be extra-motivated to play well this week. Finished third in his most recent start.

Group 4: Robert Karlsson: Hasn't missed a cut since July, and two starts ago he finished sixth at Mayakoba.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Sergio Garcia: Owns a solid record in Abu Dhabi, where ball-strikers often flourish.

Group 2: Peter Uihlein: Might only be one really solid finish away from breaking into the world's top 50 for the first time.

Group 3: Thomas Aiken: Still a mystery as to why the man with one of the game's best putting strokes doesn't contend more often.

Group 4: Robert Karlsson: Sneaky, sneaky, A reminder to always check these lists carefully, because the rejuvenated Karlsson is a steal in Group 4.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Henrik Stenson: Memories of last year's torrid finishes still dancing in the head.

Group 2: Branden Grace: Good start at Volvo last week (second), good finish at Abu Dhabi last year (fifth).

Group 3: Morten Orum Madsen: Hey, he's already got a win under his belt this wrap-around season (South African Open).

Group 4: Robert Karlsson: Flashes here and there, waiting for the big spark now.