Rolex Series

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship – Five Rolex Series debutants to watch

This week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will see 15 players make their Rolex Series debuts on the DP World Tour.

Yas Links is hosting the prestigious tournament – which is celebrating its 18th edition – for a second year running as it welcomes a world-class field.

While two-time champion Tommy Fleetwood along with fellow former winners Tyrrell Hatton and Shane Lowry are among the pre-tournament favourites, there are several players in the field looking to celebrate a memorable victory of their own.

Here, we profile some of the players who are enjoying their first taste of the Rolex Series at the second event of a four-week Middle East swing.

Dan Bradbury

The Englishman could well still be in dreamland after he defied the odds to celebrate a wire-to-wire victory at the Joburg Open in November. In claiming his maiden professional victory in South Africa, the 23-year-old became the player with the lowest position on the Official World Golf Ranking to win a DP World Tour event. Ranked 1,397th in the world, Bradbury was competing in just his third start on Tour and was only in the field at Houghton GC because of a sponsor’s invite. After his headline-making heroics, which secured his DP World Tour card through to the end of the 2024 campaign, he has made the cut at both the Alfred Dunhill Championship and Investec South African Open Championship. The World Number 500 will now take his place alongside Major Champions, Rolex Series winners and multiple-time DP World Tour winners, aiming to write another special chapter in his fledgling career.

Aaron Cockerill

A Qualifying School graduate in 2019, the Canadian secured his maiden top ten in a Covid-affected rookie season and has made 70 starts on the DP World Tour. Last year, he was second at the Magical Kenya Open presented by Absa and followed that up by finishing third in the ISPS Handa Championship in Spain a month later. With his Tour card under threat going into the Portugal Masters, the 30-year-old made the cut in Vilamoura to preserve his status and has shown signs again of his ability since the start of the new season. He finished tied fourth in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in what was his final appearance of the year. With that in mind, he will be eager to build on that performance as he kicks off the new year at a new venue.

Aaron Cockerill

Jeremy Freiburghaus

The Swiss is one of ten Challenge Tour Graduates in the field at the first Rolex Series event of the year. He secured his maiden title on the Challenge Tour at the English Trophy presented by Rocket Yard Sports Marketing in October. Seven further top tens during the 2022 season helped him end the year second on the Road to Mallorca Rankings, only finishing behind Nathan Kimsey after the Englishman won the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A. The 26-year-old played in the first four weeks of the 2023 campaign, registering his best finish so far – a tie for 32nd – at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, an event co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour.

Angel Hidalgo

The Spaniard drew inspiration from playing in front of bumper home crowds as he finished fourth in the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters towards the end of last season. The performance proved instrumental in the 24-year-old securing his card for 2023. Hidalgo has since missed his last four cuts but a new year often brings new hope as he prepares to face his first test of playing at Yas Links. Already a winner on the Challenge Tour, having earned victory at the 2021 Big Green Egg German Challenge powered by VcG, he will now be looking to showcase his talent on the biggest stages this season. He ranked in the top ten for both ‘Putts per GIR’ (Green in Regulation) and ‘Average Putts Per Round’ in the 2022 campaign – statistics he will be eager to maintain this year.

Ockie Strydom

Along with Bradbury, the South African was undoubtedly one of the standout storylines from the early-season run of events. A career-changing victory on home soil at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, made possible in part by a course record-equalling 63 in the third round, saw Strydom enter the DP World Tour winner’s circle at the age of 37. Prior to his breakthrough win he had recorded two top tens across his previous 43 appearances on Tour, spanning 13 years. The taste of winning will unquestionably push him on after a host of near-misses threatened to define his career. On 19 occasions he had finished a tournament as runner-up, with his only Sunshine Tour title coming at the Vodacom Origins Sishen in 2019.

* Hennie Du Plessis, Niklas Nørgaard, JC Ritchie, Mikael Lindberg, Daniel Hillier, Oliver Hundebøll, Tom McKibbin and Freddy Schott, along with Egyptian pair Issa Abou El Ela and El Mehdi Fakori, are the other Rolex Series debutants playing this week.

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