Golfing superstars Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth will go head-to-head in a glittering threeball completed by Rickie Fowler during the first two rounds of this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Reigning European Number One McIlroy, who is making his first start of the season this week as the annual Desert Swing begins in the United Arab Emirates, will kick off the defence of his Race to Dubai crown at 0740 on Thursday morning in the company of Americans Spieth – the World Number One – and Fowler – the World Number Six.
McIlroy is still yet to win the coveted Falcon Trophy despite a stunning record at Abu Dhabi Golf Club with only one finish outside 11th place for the Northern Irishman in eight appearances and runner-up spots in four of the last five years.
Spieth, meanwhile, is making his first appearance in the tournament and first start in a regular European Tour event.
Elsewhere, three-time winner Martin Kaymer, who held a commanding lead going into the final round in 2015, plays alongside the man who overhauled him 12 months ago as the German takes to the links alongside defending champion Gary Stal and former European Number One Henrik Stenson from 0750.
Three Major Champions are grouped together at 0830 as 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie is joined by 2003 Masters winner Mike Weir and 2008 Masters victor Trevor Immelman, while 2014 Abu Dhabi winner Pablo Larrazabal is off at 0800 with Chris Wood and 2015 Rookie of the Year Byeong Hun An.
Meanwhile, three first-time winners from the embryonic 2016 Race to Dubai are grouped together at 1255 as Australian PGA champion Nathan Holman joins BMW SA Open winner Brandon Stone and last week’s victor in the Joburg Open, Haydn Porteous.
After securing maximum points at the EurAsia Cup last week, Lee Westwood is joined by European team-mate Danny Willett and South Africa’s Branden Grace from 1205, while three other winners from the team match play showpiece last week in Malaysia are back together as Victor Dubuisson, Bernd Wiesberger and Ian Poulter get going from 1215.
This week making his 545th start on the European Tour, the experienced David Howell will get play under way at 0720 on Thursday morning.