The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship’s move to Yas Links signals a new era for the tournament and will only broaden its appeal, says the head of Middle East for the DP World Tour.
The event, established in 2006, will next month be staged for the first time on Yas Island, relocating from its traditional base at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. All 16 previous tournaments have been played on the National Course.
Next month’s battle at Yas Links Abu Dhabi, which runs January 20-23, marks the first of five Rolex Series events on the 2022 DP World Tour calendar, with the opening two and the season finale taking place in the UAE.
Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and current European No 1 Collin Morikawa have already been confirmed for Abu Dhabi, while last week organisers announced that general-admission tickets would be free to the public.
Speaking about the relocation to Yas Links, Tom Phillips, head of Middle East for the DP World Tour, told The National: “It is such a prestigious event. It’s the first event of our Rolex Series, and kicks off the year every year. So it’s always a really significant event. But to move it to Yas Links, Yas Island, where we’ve got the support of Miral and Aldar, it really helps take the event to a new level.
“The golf course is obviously stunning. For the fans that come here they’ll get an experience that they’ve never had before, but also people tuning in from around the world will see a side to Abu Dhabi they’ve never seen before. So that’s really exciting.
“And we’re having free general access this year. It’s about using the tournament as a vehicle to promote the game and to promote Abu Dhabi, and I know this is something Abu Dhabi Sports Council have been working on over the past few years, is trying to reach out to a wider audience, not just golf fans.
“We want families coming along. The fact they can now come to Yas Island, hang out at the golf but can also go enjoy some of the other attractions, that’s all part of the move to broaden the appeal of the tournament.”
The DP World Tour, which was last month rebranded from the European Tour, has been working closely with Yas Links for the past few months to ensure the course meets the requirements of a top-bracket professional golf event.
On the challenges that come with moving to a new venue, Phillips said: “I suppose it’s just the unknown. We’ve been doing it for 16 years at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, so every year you know roughly what goes where and everything that happens. Obviously there’s smaller changes, but this is a new venue.
“At the same time, it’s like a blank canvas, if you like. So licence to do what we want and come up with something new and amazing, give it the wow factor. We’re all looking forward to it.”
Phillips said the feedback from players regarding the shift to Yas Links had been extremely positive. He added that back-to-back Rolex Series events in Abu Dhabi and then the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic the following week — both now carry $8 million purses — would only help in securing world-class fields.
“We are going into a new era,” Phillips said. “It’s the DP World Tour now, it’s the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at a new venue. So that in itself is exciting. But to have Rory McIlroy and Collin Morikawa coming to be a part of that is huge.
“This tournament always attracts a world-class field; the players love coming to Abu Dhabi, they love the golf courses, but also the hospitality and the experience. Having those two guys is massive for us. And I’m sure there’ll be some more big names signing up in the near future.”