As someone who has contested every Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, how do you view the tournament’s development since 2006 and what do you believe has been the main reason for that?
The tournament is one of the first on my schedule every year and a place that I love to start my season. Since 2006, one of the main changes has been the growth of golf fans in Abu Dhabi and the strength of the field. Each year more people show up to watch us and the atmosphere is amazing.
The field also seems to get more and more competitive and when HSBC came on board in 2011, we started to see a few American stars coming over to see how they could handle the desert.
From Tiger [Woods] to Jordan Spieth to Dustin Johnson, the tournament attracts the biggest names in golf and it’s great for me to be able to compete against the best players in the world so early in the season.
- Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship talking points: McIlroy's comeback and Fleetwood's defence
- Dustin Johnson Q&A: World No 1 is targeting 'more of the same' after a trophy-laden 2017
- Rory McIlroy: Plays down heart health fears ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
What is your earliest memory of the tournament and what were your thoughts the first time you saw the course/clubhouse?
My earliest memory has to be from the first tournament in 2006. Nobody knew what to expect of the National Course and we were blown away by the condition and layout. I was lucky enough to have a good week in my first year, finishing second to Chris DiMarco, but my round of 62 in the third round is something I won’t forget and it’s still the course record. I know that a few guys have come close to breaking it in recent years, but I’m proud to have kept hold of that one for the last 12 years.
What are your favourite memories from the 12 years you have contested the tournament, both on and off the course?
I always have fun in Abu Dhabi on and off the course. You’re always so well looked after and the fans are great to play in front of.
On the course, I’ve obviously finished runner-up twice and third on another occasion, so I’ve got fond memories of playing well, but off the course, HSBC always line up fun activities for me ahead of the golf. I’ve taken part in all sorts over the years from racing golf boards, visiting the Grand Mosque, cooking with a Michelin star chef to being a DJ on the range.
It’s certainly one of my favourite events of the year and I’m looking forward to getting 2018 under way this week.
- Matt Kuchar interview: Golf's globetrotter excited to make Abu Dhabi championship debut
- Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: Cabrera Bello, Els, Westwood added to 'incredible' line-up
- Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: A look at the player profiles of the 'Magnificent Seven'