South Africa’s top-ranked player, Louis Oosthuizen, will be joined by Branden Grace and Brandon Stone, with as many as 16 of the country’s best teeing off on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi.
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, now a Rolex Series event, is the first event of 2019 on the European Tour circuit, with a number of the world’s best in action.
Oosthuizen starts on Wednesday at 05:30am with Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson and in good form after his maiden SA Open title at the back end of 2018 as he looks to improve his world ranking, sitting at 26.
Abu Dhabi has attracted the likes of Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton; all ranked higher than Oosthuizen. Henrik Stenson, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Ian Poulter and Matt Wallace are also in the field, which will offer the victor a healthy pay cheque to go with the rankings boost.
Branden Grace, T11 in his defence of the Nedbank Golf Challenge and T7 at Randpark, has now dropped to 51st in the world, and tees off on Thursday alongside Byeong Hun An and three-time winner here Martin Kaymer at 10:15am.
Grace was South Africa’s best performer here last year, but will be looking to improve on his T15 finish.
Like Oosthuizen, Brandon Stone does not have to ‘chase’ a win this week, as he already owns a golden bib which are provided to caddies of players who have already won a Rolex Series event.
The Scottish Open champion forms part of SA’s new young brigade alongside the likes of Dean Burmester and Erik van Rooyen looking to challenge the established order.
All three are in action this week with Stone, who was one of eight Saffas to make the cut last year, joining Edoardo Molinari and Jorge Campillo at 10:55am off the 10th tee.