With the Commercialbank Qatar Masters and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic to follow, Abu Dhabi Golf Club is once again the setting for the start of the traditional three-week run in the Middle East.
For World Number Three Henrik Stenson it means as return to the region where two months ago he was crowned Europe’s Number One following his victory in The 2013 Race to Dubai.
Stenson, who began his defence of that title with a fourth place finish in the Nedbank Golf Challenge last month, will be looking to win Abu Dhabi’s famous Falcon Trophy for the first time, having twice finished runner up, in 2006 and 2008.
He is joined in the field by reigning Open Champion Phil Mickelson, two-time Major Champion Rory McIlroy and World Number Ten Sergio Garcia.
It is Mickelson’s second appearance in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, having tied for 37th place in 2011, while both McIlroy and Garcia will be seeking to continue the strong form they showed at the tail-end of 2013 by continuing their fine records in the tournament.
Although neither player has yet won the trophy, McIlroy has only been outside the top 11 once in six appearances, coming runner up in 2011 and 2012, with Garcia finishing inside the top 15 in each of his five previous visits to Abu Dhabi, with his best showing being third place in 2006.
Another player with an affinity for Abu Dhabi Golf Club is Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who has won the Falcon Trophy a record three times.
Kaymer is the only man to successfully defend the title, winning in both 2010 and 2011, but replicating that feat is the target for the in-form Jamie Donaldson, who triumphed by one shot 12 months ago.
The Welshman held off the challenge of Englishman Justin Rose and Dane Thorbjørn Olesen to claim his second European Tour victory and he returns to Abu Dhabi having posted four consecutive top ten finishes on The European Tour before finishing tied 13th in last week’s Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa.
“I'm looking forward to defending my title,” he said. “It was a great win last year. Going back anywhere that you've played and won before is a really good. There's so many positive feelings, and you can do nothing but look forward to the golf course that you played so well on just a year ago.”
This week marks the ninth staging of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, with the strong field consisting of eight Major Champions, 79 European Tour winners and seven European Tour Number Ones.