Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: Can Dustin Johnson Claim his Second Win of 2018?

Traditionally, the Abu Dhabi Championship is the first event on the calendar to attract a strong field of golfers from both sides of the Atlantic. It’s sanctioned by the European Tour but with a prestigious trophy and a big prize fund up for grabs, we have our most competitive declaration of 2018 so far.

Much of the attention this week will be focused on Dustin Johnson who took the Sentry Tournament in emphatic style at the start of the year but there are plenty of challengers, including our defending champion Tommy Fleetwood.

Man to Beat

Dustin Johnson

As the world number one and a man who finished in a tie for second here a year ago, Dustin Johnson is an obvious favourite and starts at a top price of 5/1 with Coral and 188Bet among others.

Johnson’s clinical, eight stroke victory in the Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago shows that he is in no mood for a slow start to 2018 and if he is at the top of his game, the field won’t be able to live with him. However, there is a much bigger declaration in Abu Dhabi this week and plenty of players ready to take the crown if DJ has a dip in form.

Challengers

Second favourite with most bookies is Justin Rose and after another successful 12 months, the Englishman is on offer at a best of 8/1 with Sun Bets and Paddy Power. Rose has no great record at this event but after a second place in the US Masters and again in the overall Race to Dubai, he’s a strong option at that price.

Also at 8/1 with the majority of companies is Rory McIlroy although you can claim the Northern Irishman at a top price of 9/1 with Stan James. We all know that 2017 was a poor one by Rory’s very high standards but before you dismiss him completely, it’s worth noting that he has been a runner up here on four previous occasions so clearly likes the course and the event.

Behind the top three we then have a gap to Sweden’s Henrik Stenson at best odds of 18/1 with Paddy Power and then we reach the 20/1 mark where Paul Casey sits at that top price with SportingBet.

Stenson had an inconsistent year in 2017 while in contrast, Casey regularly appeared in the top ten without ever really threatening to add to his most recent trophy win – the KLM Open in 2014. Despite that space in the Casey trophy cabinet, we may well come back to him as a Top Ten tip.

Outsiders

Tyrell Hatton

Some will be surprised to see our defending champion, and the Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood in the outsiders list but the Englishman failed to recapture his early season form and clung on in the ‘Race’ in the face of a late Justin Rose challenge.

Fleetwood starts this week at a top price of 22/1 with Bet365 and 10Bet but we’ll see where his game is before considering a punt further down the line.

One man who provides more interest is Tyrell Hatton who enjoyed a good three rounds here in 2017 and went on to display much greater consistency across the 12 months. Hatton is available at best odds of 28/1 in the outright markets and could be a strong Each Way option at that price.

Other players who performed well on the European Tour in 2017 and will therefore have a chance this week if they carry that momentum forward include Matthew Fitzpatrick at 40/1 with Paddy Power and 188Bet, Kiradech Aphibarnrat at 50/1 with Bet365 and Sun Bets plus America’s Matt Kuchar who can be picked up at slightly shorter best odds of 35/1 with SportingBet.

Venue and Betting Indicators

The course at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club is a par 72 at 7,600 yards and in the early days of this competition, distance could be a factor. In 2018 however, with all players clattering it down the fairway and making a mockery of that kind of distance, power hitting becomes irrelevant.

That’s certainly the case here where we want to focus instead on GIR. Fleetwood ranked first for Greens in Regulation 12 months ago and that should be a key stat for identifying a winner.

Of course, we are at the start of the year and there is little form to go on in 2018 unless you get right behind Dustin Johnson and back the world number one to continue in the same fashion and claim his second win of 2018.

It’s tempting to go for the favourite but 5/1 is really too short for any golf tournament so we’ll look elsewhere. Justin Rose may well offer an option at 8/1 while we’ll wait to see how Rory fares before considering a punt in later events so we’re going to keep with an Each Way punt plus some Top Ten tips for this week.

If pushed for a winner then we would recommend Justin Rose but hopefully one or maybe even two of these suggestions will kickstart our golfing returns for 2018.

Best Bets for Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship 2018