Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Abu Dhabi Championship Tips 2022

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The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship kicks off the DP World Tour’s 2022 campaign this week, with the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic, Ras al Khaimah Championship and Commercial Bank Qatar Masters following on from this week’s event to complete an early-season Middle-East Swing. Alongside this week’s event, the Dubai Desert Classic has also been elevated to Rolex Series level as the DP World Tour looks to get 2022 off to a flying start.

With an $8m prize fund and 8,000 Race to Dubai points up for grabs, 14 of the world’s top-60 players are heading to Abu Dhabi this week, most of whom are making their 2022 debuts and no doubt looking for a fast start to the new look Tour.

132 players tee it up here this week, headlined by World No.2 Collin Morikawa (7/1) who’s one of just a handful of players with competitive action this year so far, finishing 5th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions a week or so ago. The bookies’ favourite though is World No.8 and 4-time Abu Dhabi runner-up Rory McIlroy, who rates as a 13/2 shot generally at the time of writing.

Beyond the talented pair at the very top of the betting, we have the likes of Viktor Hovland, defending champion Tyrrell Hatton and 2-time Abu Dhabi Champion Tommy Fleetwood all in attendance. Add to that the likes of Adam Scott, Shane Lowry and Min Woo Lee and we have a top-class event on our hands by DP World Tour standards.

Before we go into more detail and my final Abu Dhabi Championship tips, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as the golfing year kicks off. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 6,000-strong private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Overview: After 16 years at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, this year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship moves to pastures new for the first time. Yas Links is our venue and although geographically not far from the Abu Dhabi GC, its links-style setup promises to present a different test for the players.

Listed as a 7,425 yard Par 72, the course is a typical 36/36 setup with 4 par-5s and 4 par-3s. Sub-400 yard Par-4s followed by mid-length Par-5s open both sets of 9 and should allow players the opportunity to get off to a positive start before the course bites back with some more stringent holes. The 646 yard Par-5 18th hole is the longest on the course, however as ever the yardage can and most likely will be adapted to suit as the event progresses, with 5 tee boxes available on each hole.

Designed by Kyle Phillips (think Kingsbarns and Verdura in Sicily) and opened in 2010, this course will undoubtedly fall into the links-style category as all modern imitations do, however with its exposed fairways, fescue and pot bunkers, it will certainly do a fair impression of a links, especially if the wind blows which looks a distinct possibility. Paspalum grass has been used from tee to green.

abu dhabi championship tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Abu Dhabi Championship that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event.

As noted above, the event is moving to a new venue this year so event history needs to be considered accordingly: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Form/Event Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Winners & Prices. 2021: Tyrrell Hatton, 12/1;  2020: Lee Westwood, 90/1; 2019: Shane Lowry, 60/1; 2018: Tommy Fleetwood, 20/1; 2017: Tommy Fleetwood, 60/1; 2016: Rickie Fowler, 16/1; 2015: Gary Stal, 150/1; 2014: Pablo Larrazabal, 125/1; 2013: Jamie Donaldson, 66/1; 2012: Robert Rock, 150/1; 2011: Martin Kaymer, 8/1, 2010: Martin Kaymer, 14/1.

For full winners’ odds on the European Tour by tournament going back to 2010 click here.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the Abu Dhabi region is here.

Clear and sunny conditions with temperatures peaking around 70 Fahrenheit are expected, however the key to scoring this week could well be managing the wind. Gusts of 15-20mph on Thursday are forecast to rise to 25-30mph on Friday before slowly falling away on Saturday afternoon and into Sunday.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

For completeness, here’s the basic stats of the last 10 winners of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and their winning scores:

  • 2020: Tyrrell Hatton (-18); 305 yards (19th), 39.3% fairways (44th), 77.8% greens in regulation (2nd), 75.0% scrambling (11th), 1.73 putts per GIR (15th)
  • 2020: Lee Westwood (-19); 299 yards (44th), 69.6% fairways (1st), 79.2% greens in regulation (9th), 73.3% scrambling (16th), 1.67 putts per GIR (11th)
  • 2019: Shane Lowry (-18); 300 yards (30th), 37.5% fairways (55th), 72.2% greens in regulation (26th), 60% scrambling (38th), 1.59 putts per GIR (2nd)
  • 2018: Tommy Fleetwood (-22); 302 yards (19th), 66.1% fairways (9th), 87.5% greens in regulation (1st), 77.8% scrambling (4th), 1.68 putts per GIR (13th)
  • 2017: Tommy Fleetwood (-17); 301 yards (15th), 66.1% fairways (9th), 90.3% greens in regulation (1st), 57.1% scrambling (27th), 1.75 putts per GIR (45th)
  • 2016: Rickie Fowler (-16); 291 yards (27th), 69.6% fairways (4th), 77.8% greens in regulation (10th), 68.8% scrambling (10th), 1.71 putts per GIR (16th).
  • 2015: Gary Stal (-19); 278 yards (54th), 66.1% fairways (16th), 79.2% greens in regulation (13th), 66.7% scrambling (28th), 1.63 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2014: Pablo Larrazabal (-14); 292 yards (21st), 46.4% fairways (59th), 68.1% greens in regulation (28th), 78.3% scrambling (4th), 1.67 putts per GIR (13th).
  • 2013: Jamie Donaldson (-14); 295 yards (7th), 60.7% fairways (16th), 75% greens in regulation (8th), 77.8% scrambling (6th), 1.72 putts per GIR (23rd).
  • 2012: Robert Rock (-13); 296 yards (11th), 51.8% fairways (33rd), 77.8% greens in regulation (5th), 58.3% scrambling (24th), 1.64 Putts per GIR (5th).

Strokes Gained: From a Strokes Gained perspective, we have 3 years’ worth of results from the Abu Dhabi Golf Club:

  • 2021: Tyrrell Hatton. T: 9th; A: 1st; T2G: 1st; ATG: 15th; P: 18th
  • 2020: Lee Westwood. T: 5th; A: 28th; T2G: 11th; ATG: 26th; P: 2nd
  • 2019: Shane Lowry. T: 62nd; A: 3rd; T2G: 3rd; ATG: 1st; P: 16th

Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.

Of course, this year’s move to a new course pretty much renders all of that data useless given that we’re moving to a linksy set-up that happens to be in Abu Dhabi.

The difficulty of the test for the players is unknown of course with only the weather forecast and a few player posts on social media to give us any kind of clue. Links courses across the globe rely on a breeze to give them some protection, and with plenty in the forecast I suspect this won’t be a complete pushover in terms of scoring.

In a world where players are missing more than their fair share of greens due to the elements, those with the sharpest of short games may well be favoured and if there’s any clues at all to come out what we can glean then perhaps it’s that bogey avoidance and scrambling could be key pointers.

Incoming Form: All 10 winners listed below had recorded a top-10 finish in their previous 4 starts and that trend can be extended back for all of Kaymer, Casey and DiMarco’s victories also, so a positive form line looks like a good starting point this week, even if that form inevitably extends back to the end of last year:

  • 2021: Tyrrell Hatton: MC/25/16/5/MC/1/3/28/7/MC/23/8
  • 2020: Lee Westwood: 55/4/MC/28/MC/MC/MC/60/56/10/6/38
  • 2019: Shane Lowry: MC/12/15/12/MC/6/MC/34/2/14/35/30
  • 2018: Tommy Fleetwood: 27/28/61/MC/25/6/20/23/10/21/6/3
  • 2017: Tommy Fleetwood: 16/49/10/7/13/15/4/37/22/14/9/3
  • 2016: Rickie Fowler: 30/2/10/30/MC/1/4/12/25/17/3/5
  • 2015: Gary Stal: 18/51/70/39/MC/66/19/32/33/23/MC/5
  • 2014: Pablo Larrazabal: MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/9/17/8/5/53/26/MC
  • 2013: Jamie Donaldson: 60/36/7/50/9/21/MC/6/16/42/9/16
  • 2012: Robert Rock: MC/MC/25/MC/70/28/33/38/8/9/12

Event Form. To balance the clear correlation between current form and success in this event over the past 10 years, before Tommy Fleetwood retained his trophy in 2017, the previous 6 winners hadn’t mustered a single top-10 between them in this event prior to victory, so for all of Casey and Kaymer’s domination, a sparkling event history doesn’t look to be an absolute pre-requisite.

That said Shane Lowry, Lee Westwood and Tyrrell Hatton each had a top-4 finish to their name in Abu Dhabi, albeit quite distant:

  • 2021: Tyrrell Hatton: 10/6/46/13/15/MC
  • 2020: Lee Westwood: 2/MC/64/17/MC/8/MC/16
  • 2019: Shane Lowry: 4/MC/MC/MC
  • 2018: Tommy Fleetwood: MC/MC/19/MC/MC/1
  • 2017: Tommy Fleetwood: MC/MC/19/MC/MC
  • 2016: Rickie Fowler: 66
  • 2015: Gary Stal: MC
  • 2014: Pablo Larrazabal: 42/43/11/MC/39
  • 2013: Jamie Donaldson: MC/23/50/21/11/30
  • 2012: Robert Rock: 59/47/MC/MC

The inclusion of Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy to the field complicates matters as each are well-capable of winning an event like this if on their game.

The history of short-priced chances doesn’t read well here though: 2013 McIlroy (5/1), Woods (15/2); 2014: McIlroy (6/1), Stenson (8/1); 2015: McIlroy (4/1); 2016: McIlroy (4/1), Spieth (9/2); 2017: Johnson (6/1), Stenson (7/1); 2018: Johnson (5/1), Rose (8/1), McIlroy (8/1); 2019: Dustin Johnson (6/1), Brooks Koepka (9/1), Tommy Fleetwood (10/1); 2020: Patrick Cantlay (8/1); Brooks Koepka (10/1); Tommy Fleetwood (10/1); 2021: Rory McIlroy (6/1); Justin Thomas (13/2) – these well-fancied players all failed to get over the line in Abu Dhabi and backing any of the top 3 at the prices on offer carries a strong element of risk given what we’ve seen in recent years.

The other consideration of course is that this is a big-money, big-status Rolex Series event. For reference, Rolex Series winners are as follows: Noren, Fleetwood, Rahm, Cabrera-Bello, Hatton, Rose, Grace, Rahm, Molinari, Olesen, Noren, Knox, Stone, Rose, Westwood, Willett, Lowry, Rahm, Wiesberger, Willett, Wiesberger, Hatton, Fleetwood, Rahm, Westwood, Rai, Hatton, Fitzpatrick, Hatton, MinWoo Lee, Horschel and Morikawa. Very few surprises in there in the bigger scheme of things.

Of course the biggest challenge this week will be second-guessing how Yas Links will play and who of the field this new layout will favour. My selections are as follows:

Shane Lowry 2.5pts EW 25/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

It takes a brave punter to ignore the top of the betting this week as we have three very plausible options for taking the silverware. Rory McIlroy just about shades favouritism from Collin Morikawa with the pair hovering around the 7/1 mark; Viktor Hovland is a general 10/1 and it would be no surprise if any of that trio were to walk away with the title this week.

4th at the BMW Championship, 14th at East Like, a win at the CJ Cup and 6th at the DP World Tour Championship from McIlroy’s last 4 outings tells us that his game’s progressing nicely once again. Combine that with an incredible 8 top-3 finishes from his last 9 starts in this event and it’s impossible to dispute his chance. Yet the win has eluded him in Abu Dhabi thus far and a change in venue this year may just complicate matters once again.

Open Champion and DP World Tour Champion Collin Morikawa is equally difficult to shift, although in a way the fact that we’re at a new venue probably favours him a little as he’ll be at less of a disadvantage experience-wise. The World Number 1 spot is once again up for grabs for the American though and having fluffed his lines at the Hero World Challenge before leaving himself too much to do at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, perhaps it’s a distraction that’s becoming a hindrance. We shall see.

The eventual winner of the Hero, Viktor Hovland, was coming off the back of a PGA Tour win in Mayakoba and is undoubtedly hot property at present, despite his 30th place finish at Kapalua. 6 strokes lost around the greens on that most recent start is a worry though on a week which could accentuate the need for a short game if the wind does blow.

Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton will undoubtedly have their supporters given their success in the region, however I’m leading with Shane Lowry who’s also an Abu Dhabi past winner but one who should be even more suited to this new Yas Links venue.

The wins dried up for the burly Irishman after his 2019 Open Championship triumph at Royal Portrush and nearly 30 months later the 34 year-old is long overdue some more silverware. Winning a first Major is a huge moment for any player in any situation, yet Shane ended up keeping the Claret Jug for 2 years due to the pandemic and he’s only really been playing for a few months now with that weight off of his shoulders.

Perhaps fatherhood will also given Shane a renewed perspective as he looks to move back up the OWGR. At 48th he’s only a single position ahead of compatriot Seamus Power and although that means little more than bragging rights, Lowry will want to get himself well inside the top 50 where he belongs sooner rather than later. Back-to-back Rolex Series events present a great opportunity then and the promise of a breezy links-style test to start this lucrative fortnight has got to be right up his alley.

Aside from his Open Championship win, Lowry is also renowned for his prowess on this kind of terrain following his Irish Open success as an amateur at Baltray back in 2009. I can’t promise those kind of conditions here, nor does Shane particularly like those conditions by his own estimation, however a bit of wind does him no harm and there are few as good as him around the greens when putting surfaces are inevitably missed.

Lowry’s 2019 success at the Abu Dhabi GC is admittedly an outlier in a record that’s otherwise flanked by missed cuts after his debut 4th place finish, however if we’re looking for someone with the game and ability to take on the market leaders then I want him on the team here this week. RESULT: T12

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Robert Macintyre 1.5pts EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

With the 3 players at the top of the betting quite likely to end up occupying some of the paying places come Sunday evening, the only other player I’m happy to back before going deeper into the market is Robert MacIntyre.

The Scot has been purring about his new driver on Social Media and coupled with his Nike deal he should certainly look the part heading into 2022, however it’s his golf that may well do the talking this year. Just a solitary victory to his name thus far at the Cyprus Showdown, Bob is well capable of building on that considerably and making himself a permanent fixture in the World’s top 50 from his current ranking of 58th.

4th at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship was an impressive effort and backed up his 3rd place finish at the start of 2021 at the Dubai Desert Classic for some solid Middle East form. Elite-level links form at the 2019 (6th) and 2021 (8th) Open Championships is even more tangible though given this week’s change in venue, and the prospect of a breezy week on the links want worry the Oban man.

32nd for SG Around the Green, 17th for Sand Saves and 2nd for Scrambling all point to the type of short game that may well be required to remain in the mix here when conditions deteriorate here and he’s well-equipped to hang around when the going gets tough, before accelerating away when things improve as was evident by his hot putter at the Earth Course before Christmas where he gained 8.5 strokes on the field. RESULT: MC

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Danny Willett 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

The reward for backing Danny Willett on the right week is pretty strong of late. 80/1 is the carrot dangling this week and should he prevail that would complete a sequence of wins that have seen the Englishman win at 66/1 (2016 Masters), 80/1 (2018 DP World Tour Championship), 66/1 (2019 BMW PGA Championship) and 100/1 (2021 Alfred Dunhill Links) across his last 4 victories.

For a player with clearly such a high ceiling, his consistency is poor – hence the winning odds and also the price on offer this week. Yet since his most recent win at the home of golf, 5 starts have seen 21st and 27th place finishes on the PGA Tour’s Shiners Children’s Open and WWT Championship respectively, before he finished 39th after a slow start at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, included in which was a 3rd round 67 which was beaten by just one other player in the field.

All of this doesn’t scream disastrous form to me and just a cursory glance at those events I’ve listed above tell us that Danny undoubtedly lifts his game for the big weeks. A Major, 2 Rolex Series Events and the Dunhill Links is a strong haul and we’ve seen from the list of names in my preamble that repeat winners at this level are commonplace.

A 2016 victory at the Dubai Desert Classic is positive form in the region and 6th place finishes at both the 2015 and 2019 Open Championships tick the links box for this week. RESULT: MC

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Haotong Li 1pt EW 140/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

Until October, 2021 was a year to forget for Haotong Li. Actually that’s undercooking things considerably as the Chinese star failed to make a cut from 13 attempts, with his other effort resulting in a withdrawal from the Kenya Open. Keeping the ball on the planet from off the tee coupled with missing over half his greens in regulation seemed to be the main reasons for his demise, never the best combination regardless of how good a putter you might be.

Things started to improve once he got to the more forgiving dimensions of the Alfred Dunhill Links though: 2nd for SG Approach and 2nd also for SG Tee to Green was a revelation compared to the numbers we’d been seeing to that point and there have been further signs of life since to encourage an investment this week.

After a couple of poor weeks to follow in Spain, the 26 year-old finished runner up to Jin Zhang on home soil at the China Open before flying out to Hawaii and featuring heavily at the Sony Open for 3 days before eventually finishing in a tie for 12th. Any kind of PGA Tour form has to be respected at DP World Tour level, even at Rolex Series level, and his upturn in form has certainly peaked my interest.

Twice a winner on the European Tour (as it was at the time), Li’s 2018 Dubai Desert Classic win gets him a tick in the Middle East performance box to sit alongside his Paspalum green form at Genzon Golf Club, which hosted the recent China Open as well as the 2019 edition and the 2015 Shenzhen International where he finished 4th and 2nd respectively. 3rd at the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale is sufficient elite-company links form for me to take a chance here this week. RESULT: MC

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Padraig Harrington 0.5pt EW 200/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

With such a big event to start the new golfing year on the DP World Tour, I’m going to push the boat out a little and add a couple of longer prices for small stakes.

First up, I’m backing Padraig Harrington who may not be quite ready to take up the Senior Tour full time just yet, and nor should he on the evidence of his final two events to round off last year. 12th at Vilamoura and 8th on the Fire Course both showed enough promise to give the 50 year-old a chance here this week on his favoured terrain and, like Phil Mickelson over in the US, Paddy will feel that he can still compete with the youngsters when everything aligns.

Ryder Cup disappointment aside, 2021 saw some real signs of positivity with a 6th place finish in the desert at the Dubai Desert Classic before Harrington recorded his first Major top-5 finish since 2012 when finishing 4th behind the aforementioned fellow 50-something Mickelson at Kiawah Island – on another long, links-style test with Paspalum greens.

The 2-time Open Champion doesn’t need much justification on any linksy test, and if the wind does feature this week as would seem to be the case, then Padraig can undoubtedly use this to his advantage. His short game looked on point at the back end of 2021, scrambling at 79%, 83% and 78% on his final three outings of the year, and tougher conditions for even a day here could prove to be a real leveller. RESULT: T20

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Matthew Southgate 0.5pt EW 350/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Finally, another player who should enjoy this kind of terrain at a huge price is Matthew Southgate.

It would be reasonably fair to say that I’ve virtually followed the Englishman over a cliff on these links or links-style set-ups over the years and although he’s yet to convert one of his opportunities on Tour, I still maintain that this is the kind of venue where the door could finally open. Of course there’s a stellar field ahead of him this week which makes the task all the more difficult, however the reward for even sneaking an each-way spot is huge this week so I’ll take my chances.

2nd at Portstewart in 2018 and 2nd again at the Dunhill Links in 2019 are the closest that the 33 year-old has come to getting over the line at this level over the years on similar terrain, however it’s his 12th and 6th place finishes at the 2016 and 2017 Open Championships which stick out the most on his record against elite fields and when everything clicks Matt is outstanding on this kind of course.

There’s a certain leap of faith required here for this bet given that the Southend man hasn’t been seen in competitive action since the end of October, however we’ve seen him find form from nowhere in the past when everything aligns – those aforementioned runner-up finishes both followed a missed cut, and he did the same again last June when finishing 2nd at the Porsche European Open – so at the price on offer I’ll happily take a chance. RESULT: T42

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:25GMT 17.1.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.