Woods and McIlroy downplay burgeoning rivalry
Kaymer did a bit of aw-shucksing yesterday when he pointed out that alongside winning the tournament multiple times, he has also missed the cut twice.
Yet there is no denying it is a course and a competition that suits him. Based in Arizona, he plays a lot of desert golf through the winter and usually arrives at this tournament with a game suited to the conditions.
“I like coming here to a golf course I really like and have been successful on, I never really have to play against my feel. That’s very rare, to be able to go and really feel very comfortable on every hole. Well, not every hole – there are a couple where I’m not that happy about the tee box. But in general, it’s a golf course I’m happy on.”
Kaymer finished last year in good form, trousering €940,000 in the 12-man Nedbank Challenge in South Africa in December. But you have to go back to the HSBC Champions event in China in November 2011 for his last tour win.
Outside of the leading pair, somebody like Rose or Dufner might well be a better shout for this. Or Harrington, who has finished in the top five here in the past and was showing a return to some decent form in South Africa last week.
HSBC Golf Championship The lowdown
Course: Abu Dhabi Golf Club, South Africa.
Length: 7,600 yards. Par: 72. Field: 126.
Prizemoney: €2.02 million (€336,725 to the winner).
Layout: A desert course which despite being one of the longer ones on tour does give up a lot of birdies each year. A sign of how welcoming the professionals find its wide fairways and flat layout is the fact that 20-under-par wouldn’t have won three out of the last four stagings. It’s a course that favours the big drivers, as long as they’re accurate with it as there is a lot of water around.
The par-three 12th is its most famous hole. Guarded by a long lake to the front and with a huge rock wall as an imposing backdrop, it’s a 186-yard hole that calls for a lot of nerve off the tee.
Last year: Robert Rock was the surprise winner, holding out on the final day from a stellar pack that included, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell all within two shots.
Type of player suited to the course: You need to be long off the tee and you need to be deadly with the putter. Between them, Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey have won five of the last seven here. McIlroy has been runner-up twice.
Key attribute: Length
Weather forecast: A windy start will give way to sunny and calm conditions throughout the tournament.
Time difference: Abu Dhabi is four hours ahead of Ireland.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 from 6am today