We move from South Africa to the UAE for the first event in what is now a 4-stage 'Gulf Swing' - the newest addition is in Bahrain next week. It's testament to the strength of European golf at present that we have all 4 of last season's Major winners in attendance this week, including Masters Champion Phil Mickelson, plus a whole host of the world's top 50....the field has a definite feeling of quality in it.
In terms of favouritism, PGA Champion Martin Kaymer just about shades it from World number 1 Lee Westwood - at the time of writing the best price you'll get on Kaymer is 8/1 although you can turn that into effective odds of 32/1 by taking advantage of a few of the current bookmaker offers - click here for more details on how. Here's some similar examples for Lee Westwood | Rory McIlroy | Graeme McDowell | Paul Casey | Ian Poulter - fill your boots!
This is the 6th successive year for this event at the Abu Dhabi GC on the European Tour, however with new sponsors in HSBC we're now looking at a prize fund of $2.7m which has certainly captured the attention of many players. From the 5 previous events we have 3 winners - twice each for Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey, with Chris DiMarco picking up the inaugural trophy in 2006. History suggests that a score in the 15 to 20 under bracket is required to win around here, so plodders and par-makers need not apply!
The course itself is an exposed 7,500 yard test of power and putting - despite being toughened up last year there are still plenty of scoring opportunities. With dull, damp but generally calm conditions expected this should play into the hands of the longer hitters who can handle the fast Bermuda greens - these are certainly 2 factors I'd give strong credence to in this week's predictor model. Despite being a desert course, the Abu Dhabi GC feels more like a continental Europe parkland course at times and those who favour a bit more space off the tee will feel very much at home here.
History would suggest that a top-quality player is going to shine through, however with such a strong field there are some cracking prices on offer. The fact that Phil Mickelson is available at 22/1 with Paddy Power at the time of writing (£50 of free bets if you fancy a bit of this - click here!) says something about the strength and depth of the field. In attempting to unravel this, I've kept to some simple principles. Players must be long, play the Gulf swing well (in particular this event and Qatar) and have a positive record on Bermuda greens. Then it will come down to who putts well on the week - some good recent form with the putter is critical - anyone who's flat stick is cold simply won't make the requisite score here.
Finally, before my tips here's a brief thanks and reminder that there's a £25 free bet up for grabs each and every week on our facebook 'punters league'. Why not check out who our members are backing this week (click here to see everyone's selections to date) or join in the fun for yourself - click here for more details! Don't forget my spread betting tips for this event: Abu Dhabi Spread Tips
We scored on the Open Champion a fortnight ago when he landed the Africa Open and, after a week off, it's time to jump back on board. In the last year the South African has developed into a truly world-class competitor, playing with a calm confidence that only a Major championship can bring. His win at East London GC, albeit in poor company relative to this event, once again showed that Louis has what it takes to win a lot of tournaments. Oosthuizen has the lot here. He's plenty long enough and has a strong preference for Bermuda grass greens as his recent record proves. Finishes of 5/2 here in the last 2 seasons demonstrates his liking for this course, and multiple top 10s in Qatar and Dubai over the last 3 seasons reinforces his liking for golf in this neck of the woods. His recent win came on the back of 4 top 10 finishes in 8 events and, with a week's rest to his benefit, I can see no logical reason why Oosthuizen won't be firmly in the mix here come Sunday afternoon. RESULT: M/C
If ever there was someone who ticks all the boxes for this event then Quiros fits the bill for me. At one point last season the Spaniard looked set to make a charge for a Ryder Cup spot, however a poor mid-season put paid to that and he'll be keen to prove his class in such a quality field. Finishes of 17/26/11 over the last 3 seasons here is solid enough, however if you dig a bit deeper you'll find oodles of quality performances on Bermuda greens and also in the desert. His 2009 win in Qatar on a similar setup excites, as do further top 10 finishes in Dubai and again last season in Qatar. 2 top 5 finishes in his last 5 starts, including an excellent 3rd in Dubai at the end of last season - I'm expecting big things of Quiros this season and I won't be surprised to see him topple a few of the favourites here. RESULT: T23
Bermuda-specialist Hansen will have been looking forward to this event over the last few weeks - again it sets up perfectly for the Dane. Last season promised much early season with successive 3rd place finishes in South Africa plus 8th place here, however his form drifted as the Tour hit European soil and it wasn't until the back end of the season in Singapore (2nd), Hong Kong (11th) and Dubai (11th) that he came back to something approaching his best. Horses for courses is an overused phrase, however like my other 2 tips I think you'll find Hansen in a strong position on Sunday and looking to improve on event form of 15/8 over the last 2 seasons. RESULT: T18
With so many top quality players to choose from at 100/1 or longer we're spoilt for choice this week! Some players that made the shortlist were Brett Rumford (great record in Qatar), Gonzalo Fernandez Castano (improving putter) & Johan Edfors (plenty long enough & high class when putting well), however I've opted for 41 year old Argentinean Ricardo Gonzalez.
4 times a winner on the European Tour, the long hitter had a poor season last term hence his price, however the encouragement is that his best result (9th) came in Qatar on a similar setup. 4th here in 2006 and a never-nearer 17th in 2008 are positive, as are further top 10s in Qatar and Dubai over the last few seasons. A speculative punt, however potentially a great trading opportunity if he gets off to a good start - at the time of writing he's trading at a massive 500 on Betfair. Find out more about Betfair trading with our guide: Betfair Golf. RESULT: T8
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 21:00GMT 18.1.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.