After a tumultuous year, the DP World Tour returns in 2023 with one of it's flagship Rolex Series events, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. There's a whopping $9 million purse available this week, with more than $1.5 million going to the winner, which would be a pretty good way to start the season...
Nine of the world's top 50 are in the field in Abu Dhabi at a world-class golf course, whilst there is also the potential for a fair bit of controversy too.
Thomas Pieters kicked off his 2022 season with a one-stroke win on a pretty dramatic final day at Yas Links. The Belgian moved in to a share of the lead with a par on his first hole of the day and held firm in tough conditions with a closing round of level par 72 to take the title.
This was the sixth and biggest DP World Tour win for Pieters, who came under pressure from the likes of Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy at different stages before the final round before both ended up fading in their title charge. In the end, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Shubhankar Sharma finished as Pieters' nearest competitors, just one stroke behind in a share for second place.
Whilst the field is not quite as strong as in last year's event, when the likes of McIlroy and Morikawa teed it up, this week's action will be spiced up by the fact that a number of LIV golfers have been granted permission to take part, which could make for interesting viewing particularly if any of them get close to the lead over the weekend.
The likes of Ian Poulter, 2020 champion Lee Westwood, Patrick Reed and Henrik Stenson are set to tee it up this week, with all four having been previous members of the DP World Tour and perhaps looking to this event as a chance to earn some much-needed world ranking points.
There are also a number of players in the field who took part in last week's Hero Cup, which saw teams from GB & Ireland and Continental Europe battle it out under the watchful gaze of Luke Donald, Team Europe's Ryder Cup Captain.
Three of those, who actually ended up on the losing side last week, are Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood, who are all expected to be on the plane to Rome in September and will be looking to start off their season in style to cement their place.
Yas Links on Yas Island hosted this event for the first time last year, moving from Abu Dhabi GC, and the course has earned plaudits for the challenge it poses as the first 'true links course' in the UAE.
Designed by Kyle Phillips, who also boasts Kingsbarns on his list of golf courses, Yas Links is a 7,425 par 72 which first opened in 2010 and has proven to be a tough test of golf when the wind blows, as demonstrated by last year's winning total of 10 under par.
The 'signature' hole is probably the par 5 18th, which measures a staggering 646 yards and didn't exactly endear itself to Tyrrell Hatton last year, who described it as 'one of the worst par 5s I have seen in my life' and 'I would love for a bomb to drop on it'. You can judge for yourself on the TV coverage this week...
By all accounts the course is in immaculate condition this week, so much so that even the tee boxes are running at 10 on the stimpmeter!
Robert MacIntyre @ 25/1
The Scotsman was joint-top scorer for the GB & Ireland side last week at the Hero Cup so arrives in good form, and has been pretty positive about the state of his game recently after putting in plenty of work during the winter break.
MacIntyre is one of those players who is on the shortlist for a Ryder Cup place this September, and a win this week would just about cement it.
Victor Perez @ 35/1
The Frenchman lives in St Andrews and loves links golf, as proven by his victory at the Dunhill Links Championship. He has also finished as runner-up at this event back in 2020 and has a pretty strong record in the desert which makes for an excellent combination here.
He also went undefeated last week at the Hero Cup so should arrive full of confidence and with his game sharp.