Everything looks in place for Rory McIlroy to land his first Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
This year Rory turns up as tournament favourite and we'll get to him shortly. Jordan Spieth makes his first pilgrimage to this event and slots closely in behind McIlroy as second fav. Spieth started the year in fine fashion with an impressive win in Hawaii and his chances are from slim from following that win up with another here. It is quite clear that although some of his golf might not be as impressive or as easy on the eye as the likes of McIlroy, he is the most ruthless golfer we have seen since a certain wild animal came on the scene in the early 90s.
Accuracy and length off the tee is what we are looking for here this week in Abu Dhabi and neither of these two can be considered the main strength's of Jordan's game. The closer he gets to the green is where he exceeds all others. That is not to say he will not compete this week, as he is adapting to play well on any layout he comes across, but I do feel he is worth ducking at the odds this week considering the strength and depth of the European field.
We'll start with Rory McIlroy. How he hasn't won here is anyone's guess but we'll be taking the chance that 2016 is the year he finally gets across the line. He has finished second here in four of the last five years. Last year he looked all over the winner after Kaymer's demise before Gary Stal holed some miracle putts towards the end. The year before he fell foul of the rules officials on Saturday and was penalised two strokes which inevitably cost him the title once again. That penalty drop in question actually resulted in a worse lie that he had previously had so there's no doubting he was unlucky that year.
He comes here after a win in Dubai at the end of the season and he should continue his run of good form heading here this week. He has been practicing hard and has talked about getting off to a fast start in 2016 in lead up to the first major. Most importantly with Rory is the putting surfaces. He thrives on these pure greens in the Far East and I fully expect him to perform well on them again. More often than that the putting surfaces level the playing field with McIlroy and the rest considering he is at best streaky. However when he comes to this part of the world he is a different animal and seems to thrive on these greens. I was looking a shade more than the 4/1 on offer. At 5/1 he would have been a max bet, but we'll pull back ever so slightly, especially considering this is the first of his year and there is always the chance that he'll bounce. Unlikely though. The first two days will be most important. He needs to be around the lead. McIlroy struggles with deficits early on in events and begins to push too hard when he is behind, therefore the start of the event is key to our bet landing.