There is a buzz in the air at the first Rolex Series event of 2020.
The eight premium tournaments, each with a minimum prize fund of US $7million, seem to deliver more drama each time they are played. Ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA we take a look at the key things to know.
The Hero Challenge will take things to the next level in 2020 with the inception of a Hero Challenge finale. The fast-paced and innovative format will be played four times throughout the season, with each winner, plus two wild card selections, competing for Hero Challenge supremacy in a final showdown the week of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
The first instalment will feature World Number One Brooks Koepka, last year’s double-Rolex Series winner Bernd Wiesberger, Major Champions Danny Willett and Louis Oosthuizen, 2016 Ryder Cup player Matthew Fitzpatrick and rising star Viktor Hovland. The six stars will do battle on a specially designed course at the world-famous Yas Marina Circuit, the racetrack for Formula One’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The winner will automatically book their spot in the Hero Challenge final, so strap yourselves in for a thrilling battle.
The Rolex Series was introduced in 2017 and continues to become stronger each season. The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA was elevated to the premium category last year, delivering fantastic excitement in its position as the first Rolex Series event of the season. Three of the Rolex Series events in 2019 went to a play-off and all eight events featured epic battles down the back nine on Sunday to decide the winner. While this week’s champion is unknown, it is certain there will be tremendous excitement down the home stretch in Abu Dhabi.
Strength of field
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA was one of the strongest fields on the European Tour last year, and this year it will be even stronger. Four-time Major Champion Koepka, who cut his teeth on the Challenge Tour in 2012 and 2013, will be joined by other top-ranked Americans Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau as they bid to get 2020 started off on the right foot with a Rolex Series triumph. There will be considerable competition for the crown however, as Rolex Series veterans like Tommy Fleetwood, Wiesberger, Willett, Lee Westwood and Rafa Cabrera Bello who all know what it takes to get the job done in these premium events, are also in the field.
Speaking of having what it takes, the defending champion of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented EGA, Shane Lowry, will return to the site of his first Rolex Series win, when he tees it up this week. In an epic battle down the stretch last year, the Irishman birdied the final hole at Abu Dhabi Golf Club to triumph in what turned out to be a pivotal week in his career. The Rolex Series win provided the confidence he then displayed six months later during his historic and stylish first Major Championship victory in The Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Fresh and ready to begin his title defence, do not be surprised to see Lowry competing at the top of a leaderboard once again.
Abu Dhabi Golf Club
For the 15th consecutive year, Abu Dhabi Golf Club will host the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA. The beastly 7,583 yard, par 72 layout is a test which has produced stunning champions over the years. Prior to Lowry winning, Fleetwood lifted back-to-back trophies in front of the iconic falcon-shaped clubhouse in 2017 and 2018. Martin Kaymer has won the event a record three times while other notable winners include Rickie Fowler (2016), Paul Casey (2007,2009), Robert Rock (2012) and Jamie Donaldson (2013).