The first Rolex Series event of 2020 takes place on the European Tour this week with a world class field competing at the Abu Dhabi Championship.

Tommy Fleetwood and Patrick Cantlay are the joint 9/1 favourites, followed by world number one Brooks Koepka as he makes his return after a knee injury layoff.

Abu Dhabi Golf Club has been softened by plenty of rain at the start of this year with the 7,583-yard par 72 likely to play into the hands of the longer hitters this week.

Two-time winner Fleetwood is respected although he looks short enough at the odds, while Cantlay’s lack of experience at the course is enough to swerve the American.

 

Louis Oosthuizen Each Way

Louis Oosthuizen did very little wrong in finishing second on his South African Open title defence last week and he can go one better with victory in Abu Dhabi.

Oosthuizen struck the ball impressively at Randpark, dropping just one shot all week. His putter was cold on the final day though and despite a hole in one, Oosthuizen finished three shots behind winner Branden Grace.

It continued an excellent run of form from the South African since the end of last season. The 2010 Open champion claimed top-six finishes at the WGC HSBC Champions, Nedbank Challenge and the Australian Open.

The 37-year-old also has positive memories from this tournament, with the supreme ball striker runner-up in 2009, fifth one year later and fourth last season.

Oosthuizen looks close to claiming a tenth European Tour title and is a confident each-way selection at 14/1.

 

Shane Lowry Each Way

Shane Lowry won the Abu Dhabi Championship 12 months ago and a successful title defence this week looks entirely feasible.

The Open champion enjoyed an unforgettable 2019 with his win here followed by a major breakthrough at Royal Portrush last summer. Lowry has developed into a world class player and comes into this year hungry for more success, with his main goal to qualify for Padraig Harrington’s European Ryder Cup team.

Lowry comes into the event buoyed by a superb finish at the Hong Kong Open last week. The Irish golfer’s decision to compete at the rearranged tournament paid off, with a final round 64 securing second place behind champion Wade Ormsby.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 15: Shane Lowry of Ireland reacts during the Pro-Am ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 15, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

The 32-year-old will have taken great confidence from his performance at Fanling, heading to a course where he was also fourth in 2010 alongside last year’s win.

Lowry is highly motivated and with the rust knocked off, looks a likely contender again this week at 18/1.

 

Thomas Pieters Each Way

Thomas Pieters has threatened to get his hands on this trophy on several occasions and this could finally be the week for him to win in Abu Dhabi.

The power-packed Belgian finished fourth on his second appearance in 2015, before taking second a year later. Pieters was also fifth two years ago and inside the top 20 last season at a course which undoubtedly plays into his hands.

Pieters has underachieved in recent years but the four-time European Tour winner looks ready to kick on this year. The 27-year-old claimed a long-overdue victory last summer at the Czech Masters and made all ten cuts after this success.

BEL OMBRE, MAURITIUS - DECEMBER 05: Thomas Pieters of Belgium reacts after his eagle on the 14th during Day One of the Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open at Heritage Golf Club on December 05, 2019 in Bel Ombre, Mauritius. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Pieters ended last season with a tie for sixth in Dubai at the DP World Tour Championship and he is extremely comfortable competing in the desert.

His long-game confidence has never been higher with Pieters ending last year second for both strokes gained tee to green and on approach.

With a return to the top 50 of the world golf rankings a major goal, Pieters can start 2020 by contending again in Abu Dhabi at 28/1 each way.

 

Victor Perez Each Way

Victor Perez was one of the breakthrough stars of last season and the French golfer is backed to challenge in Abu Dhabi this week.

Perez clinched his first European Tour title at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last September, shooting 22-under-par for victory in Scotland. The 6ft 5in talent suffered no hangover following his maiden success and looks capable of establishing himself as one of the leading lights on this tour.

Perez flourished on his WGC debut with a superb fourth-place finish at the HSBC Champions. The 27-year-old followed this up with a tie for second at the Turkish Airlines Open, after losing a six-man playoff.

Perez made the cut on his first start in Abu Dhabi last year and shot a second-round 66, suggesting the course is suited to his powerful game.

With a Masters debut to look forward to in April, Perez can continue his climb up the world rankings with a strong performance in the desert at 60/1.

 

Pablo Larrazabal Each Way

Pablo Larrazabal has already won in Abu Dhabi and could threaten a second title this weekend at appealing odds.

The Spaniard has been undergoing swing changes but pulled off a remarkable recovery to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship on his last start.

Larrazabal appeared to be playing his way out of contention on the final day at Leopard Creek, but three birdies in his last four holes clinched a dramatic fifth European Tour title.

In addition to Larrazabal’s victory in Abu Dhabi six years ago, the Spaniard has also finished second in 2017 and sixth last season. The 36-year-old is extremely comfortable around the Peter Harradine-designed course and will be optimistic about contending this week after his triumphant end to 2019.

Fearless Larrazabal proved in South Africa he is a strong closer of tournaments and odds of 66/1 appear generous for the recent winner.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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