Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
The European Tour gets underway with the first tournament of 2019 and a top class field featuring Americans Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka as the headline acts for this Rolex Series event in Abu Dhabi.
Tommy Fleetwood has won this tournament for the last two seasons and the English golfer is an obvious contender at the 7,583-yard par 72. The action gets underway a day earlier than usual this year on Wednesday.
It looks worth scanning lower down the betting and Thomas Pieters looks the strongest bet at 20/1. The world class talent ended a frustrating 2018 on a high after winning the World Cup of Golf for Belgium in Melbourne. Pieters has won three strokeplay tournaments on the European Tour and has a superb record at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. He finished fifth 12 months ago, runner-up in 2016 and fourth in 2015. Off the back of his World Cup triumph, Pieters should be full of belief heading to Abu Dhabi.
Matt Wallace has emerged as a prolific winner on the European Tour and is well worth following at 33/1. The English golfer won three times last season including a superb victory at the Made in Denmark as he narrowly missed out on a Ryder Cup wildcard pick for Europe. The fast-improving 28-year-old ended the year strongly with a tie for second at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. A return to the desert, where he was 32nd on debut here last season, could see Wallace contend for a fifth title.
Thomas Detry partnered Pieters to glory in Australia and the Belgian could be another contender this week at 40/1. Detry has threatened a maiden title on the European Tour and his victory in November could help spur him on to success as an individual. The 25-year-old shot a third round 64 on his way to ninth on his first appearance here last season. Detry ended last year with three top tens, in his last four starts, including the World Cup triumph and looks worth backing to continue this form in Abu Dhabi.
Martin Kaymer has an outstanding record in Abu Dhabi winning this tournament no fewer than three times. The former world number one’s last victory at the course came in 2011 but he also posted three top-six finishes since then including fourth two years ago. The German will be desperate to get back in the winner’s circle with the US Open triumph his last title back in 2014. Fifth place in November’s Turkish Airlines Open was encouraging and the 11-time European Tour winner is generously priced at 50/1.
Thomas Pieters 20/1 each way
Matt Wallace 33/1 each way
Thomas Detry 40/1 each way
Martin Kaymer 50/1 each way
Jon Rahm defends his title at the Desert Classic with the Spaniard winning a play-off last season in California. World number one Justin Rose also makes his first start of 2019. Players will compete on three different courses this week with the final two rounds taking place at the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West. Low-scoring will be necessary to win this week with Rahm shooting 22-under-par 12 months ago.
No-one has been more consistent than Adam Hadwin at this tournament in the last few years and the Canadian must have a strong chance at 25/1. Hadwin was runner-up in 2017 when he shot a 59 in the third round at La Quinta. He was also third last year and sixth in 2016 so few golfers will be looking forward to this week as much as him. The 2017 Valspar Championship winner deserves a spot in the staking plan at an event he has come so close to winning.
Aaron Wise is one of the brightest talents in the game with the American breaking through to win the AT&T Byron Nelson in May. The PGA Tour rookie of the year was also runner-up at Quail Hollow and finished sixth at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. The 22-year-old has valuable course experience at this tournament, finishing 34th two years ago and 17th last season, which can only aid his chances. Wise looks ready to add a second title and merits support at 30/1.
Hudson Swafford won his maiden PGA Tour title at this tournament two years ago and looks well-placed to challenge for another victory this week. The American shot 20-under-par for victory in 2017 and mounted a solid defence for 29th place last year. His performance last week at the Sony Open, where he closed with a 64 for a tie for third, bodes extremely well. Swafford hit 75 per cent of greens in regulation in Hawaii and with confidence soaring looks a major runner at 50/1.
Andrew Landry came so close to getting his hands on the trophy last year after losing a play-off on the fourth hole to Rahm. The American opened with a round of 63 and was extremely unlucky to miss out on the victory. Landry put this behind them and claimed a first PGA Tour title a few months later impressively at the Texas Open. Consistency is not his strong suit but Landry looks overpriced at 100/1 to contend again in the desert.
Adam Hadwin 25/1 each way
Aaron Wise 30/1 each way
Hudson Swafford 50/1 each way
Andrew Landry 100/1 each way