Jamie Donaldson will launch his defence of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship alongside star attractions and multiple Major winners Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson when the first event of The European Tour’s annual ‘Desert Swing’ gets under way on Thursday.
Welshman Donaldson, who claimed his second European Tour title 12 months ago despite a nervy finish in which he made a three-putt bogey at the last at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, will tee it up at 0740 local time on Thursday with former World Number One McIlroy, making his 2014 bow after getting engaged to Caroline Wozniacki over the festive period, and Open Champion Phil Mickelson.
Just ahead of the defending champion at 0730 will be another stellar, marquee group featuring three-time Abu Dhabi HSBC Champion Martin Kaymer, who triumphed here in 2008, 2010 and 2011, his Medinah team-mate Sergio Garcia, plus Abu Dhabi ambassador and rising starlet Matteo Manassero.
European Number One and the hottest property in the world of golf as 2014 begins, Henrik Stenson will tee off from the first hole at 1205 on Thursday as the World Number Three takes to the UAE links with former World Number One Luke Donald and 15-time European Tour winner Thomas Bjorn.
Robert Rock, who memorably held off a surging Tiger Woods to take the Abu Dhabi title two years ago, will partner 2013 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Peter Uihlein and former Open Champions Darren Clarke at 0800, while Colin Montgomerie and José María Olazábal, the two men responsible for leading Europe to victory at The Ryder Cup in 2010 and 2012 respectively, are paired together with promising Austrian Berndt Wiesberger at 1225.
Meanwhile, at 1155, 2009 champion Paul Casey will play alongside Sweden’s Peter Hanson and evergreen Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez.