It’s the first big event of 2018 and our betting expert has picked out a quartet to follow at the Abu Dhabi Championship
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship betting: Steve’s top tips
No one is more comfortable in the desert than Rory McIlroy (8/1).
That’s enough to dispel any worries I’ve got about heart irregularities, ribs or just that he hasn’t played since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Outstanding in Dubai, where he has won four times, the Northern Irishman has also been highly consistent in Abu Dhabi.
The most incredible thing, actually, is that he hasn’t won this tournament. His record, since 2008, reads: 11, 5, 3, 2, 2, mc, 2, 2, 3.
Of his 34 rounds at the Abu Dhabi GC course, 22 have been sub 70. You just feel that at some point in his career he HAS to win here.
Here’s my main feeling about him. He’s 8/1 on the back of his stuttering 2017 and that, aside from a couple of Instagram videos, no one has seen his game away from the practice bays.
If he performs to any sort of level, his price is probably going to halve the next time he tees up.
On the form we’ve shown above, he looks an each-way bet to nothing.
But would it be such a huge surprise if, with a winter of hard work behind him, he doesn’t storm out of the traps?
Another man to thrive in Abu Dhabi is Branden Grace (22/1), who arrives on the back of a runners-up finish at the South African Open.
Two fifth place finishes, and a further top 20, lead me in and having only recently celebrated winning the Nedbank Challenge, there are no arguments about his form.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship betting: Steve’s each-way bets
I might end up looking stupid on Sunday – or even Friday – but the 80/1 on Joost Luiten leapt off the screen.
Here is a five-time European Tour winner, who’s had three top 20s in his last four starts and was second at Valderrama to Sergio Garcia.
Take into account his very creditable record at Abu Dhabi – no worse than 29th in the last five years and with three top 10s in that time – and the question shouldn’t be why you should back Luiten. It should be why wouldn’t you?
I’m already asking myself why I keep coming back to Martin Kaymer (33/1) but I’m drawn to him like a moth to a flame.
Kaymer is notoriously hard to work out in terms of form and it’s fair to say the two time major champion has been having something of a hard time of it over the last couple of years.
But for every tied-85th at the Italian Open, there’s a fifth at the Nedbank to remind you of what he can produce.
Kaymer’s a horses-for-courses kind of player – check out his form on Fife links layouts – and it’s a similar story in Abu Dhabi.
He’s finished sixth, 31st, third, 16th and fourth since 2013.
Given there’s a Ryder Cup on and he’s unlikely to make it without a sharp upturn in form, this might be the start of a revival.
The Abu Dhabi Invitational may not jump off the page in your betting analysis but Kaymer won it last week, at the Yas Links, and so he moves on with a bit of confidence and a spring in his step.