GFC Search

 

Power Rankings: Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

RSS

While the PGA Tour contests the Humana Challenge in California (our Power Rankings for that event can be viewed here), some of the top talent in Europe heads east to the U.A.E. for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Abu Dhabi Golf Club serves as the first venue of the three-week Desert Swing and will welcome a field that includes reigning Open champion Phil Mickelson.

Be sure to join the Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge to test yourself against our panel of experts, including defending champion Charlie Rymer. For more fantasy assistance, check out John Antonini's "Stat attack!" and our expert picks for Abu Dhabi and Humana.

Jamie Donaldson returns to defend the title he won last year in a playoff over Justin Rose and Thorbjorn Olesen. Here are 10 players to watch this week in the Middle East:

1. Rory McIlroy: The Ulsterman missed the cut last year amid much fanfare from his new equipment manufacturer, but his prior record here is stellar - four consecutive top-five finishes from 2009-2012, including back-to-back second-place showings. Having snapped his winless drought late last year in Australia, McIlroy appears poised for a return to form in 2014.

2. Martin Kaymer: While McIlroy's record in the Emirates is impressive, Kaymer's is better: a tie for second in 2009 sandwiched around wins in 2008, 2010 and 2011. The German tied for eighth here a year ago and began to find his stride during the latter half of 2013.



3. Sergio Garcia: Another player with an outstanding history in Abu Dhabi, Garcia has cracked the top 15 in each of five starts here since 2006. The Spaniard started strong out of the gates in 2013 and now enters off a pair of top-five showings in his two most recent worldwide starts.

4. Henrik Stenson: The Swede will have a tough time topping his 2013 performance that ended with a string of trophies, but he'll begin at a venue where he was runner-up in both 2006 and '08. Stenson was the hottest player on the planet during the second half of 2013 and will tee it up this week with an abundance of confidence.

5. Phil Mickelson: The southpaw didn't light it up in his lone prior appearance in Abu Dhabi, finishing T-37 in 2011, but he experienced a rejuvenation of sorts while claiming his fifth major title in 2013. As he eyes a reduced playing schedule that will focus on the majors, Mickelson is equipped with a new driver, but the same go-for-broke mentality that has netted him 45 career worldwide wins.

6. Luke Donald: The former world No. 1 struggled in 2013, but will look to bounce back in 2014. Donald will be making just his third start in Abu Dhabi, but he tied for 11th here in 2008 and finished T-5 the last time he was in the Middle East at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

7. Jamie Donaldson: The defending champ is not lacking confidence or momentum, as he has notched five consecutive top-15 finishes dating back to last year. In addition to his win a year ago, Donaldson has three top-25 finishes in six career starts in Abu Dhabi and ended his year in 2013 with a pair of high-profile runner-up finishes in Turkey and South Africa.

8. Branden Grace: The South African finished fifth here a year ago, the start of a strong 2013 campaign that netted him a spot on the International Team at the Presidents Cup. Grace already has his new year off to a strong start, having finished runner-upto countryman Louis Oosthuizen at last week's Volvo Golf Champions.

9. Joost Luiten: Luiten nearly took home the title last week in South Africa behind an albatross during the second round, ultimately tying for third. The Dutchman won twice last year on the European Tour and has had some success in Abu Dhabi, where he finished T-6 just last year.

10. Thomas Bjorn: Nearly out of the top 100 in the world rankings last summer, Bjorn is now back inside the top 25 thanks in large part to his win at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in his final start of 2013. The Dane sandwiched that win in South Africa with a pair of top-10 finishes, and now heads back to an event where he tied for third in 2012.