Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship 2018: Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood added to 'incredible' line-up
Defending champion Fleetwood says winning at Abu Dhabi Golf Club last year was 'start of my best season ever
Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood has lauded the “incredible” line-up at next week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, presented by EGA, with another batch of top-class golfers added to the field on Wednesday.
The capital event, taking place at Abu Dhabi Golf Club from January 18-21, has once more attracted some of the game’s leading lights, headlined by world No 1 Dustin Johnson and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy. Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson are also competing.
On Wednesday, organisers announced that Matthew Fitzpatrick, Danny Willett, Lee Westwood, Tyrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Ernie Els have also signed up for the tournament. As such, the field now boasts 16 major victories, 370 European Tour wins and 86 on the PGA Tour, with 89 of the top 100 on the final 2017 European Tour rankings participating next week.
As one of the six past champions present, Fleetwood will be looking to go well again in Abu Dhabi. His one-shot victory 12 months ago sparked a run that culminated in the Englishman being crowned Europe’s No 1 golfer in Dubai in November.
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“The line-up of players is incredible again this year and is a great testament to the quality of the tournament that Abu Dhabi Sports Council hosts with the support of HSBC,” Fleetwood said. “The fact it includes so many major winners and past champions is one of the reasons why we all play here.
“Winning in Abu Dhabi last year really was the start of my best season ever, and coming out on top of so many of the world’s best players made the win even more special. This year will be my first ever defence of a title so will be memorable for that reason.”
Last year, Fleetwood topped the leaderboard ahead of closest challengers Johnson - the American was making his Abu Dhabi debut - and 2014 champion Pablo Larrazabal, who finished joint-second.
World No 20 Cabrera Bello, Larrazabal’s compatriot, is a regular to the UAE, with the Spaniard winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in 2012. Next week will represent his 10th appearance in Abu Dhabi, with his fourth four years ago his best performance to date at the tournament.
“I’m looking forward to returning to Abu Dhabi for my 10th consecutive year,” Cabrera Bello said. “It is a fantastic place to start 2018 and, as always, the field is set to be one of the strongest we will see all season. It’s one of my favourite events on the calendar and, having finished as high as fourth in the past, I know the course suits me.”
Meanwhile, Englishman Tyrrell Hatton came home sixth in 2015 before threatening to take the Falcon Trophy last year. However, a final-day 75 meant he eventually finished 13th.
“I can’t wait,” Hatton said. “I’ve been working hard on my game in the off-season and cannot wait to get back out competing. Abu Dhabi is a world-class field and, with so many Official World Golf Ranking and Ryder Cup points on offer, it’s a very important week for us all.”
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Updated: January 10, 2018 03:02 PM