As many as 15 South Africans, including Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen, will face some of the best golfers in the world this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
The 15th edition of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is set to provide early fireworks with a host of South African golfers competing alongside some of the biggest names in the world including Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Danny Willett and Matt Wallace.
Defending champion and 2019 Open winner Shane Lowry will be hoping for another remarkable year on the European Tour when he tees off at 07:40am with 2017 and 2018 champion Tommy Fleetwood and World No 1 Brooks Koepka.
2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia has also been paired in a marquee group. He’ll go head to head with high-flying American Patrick Cantlay, these days inside the world top 10, and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger teeing off ten minutes earlier.
South Africa’s Branden Grace will be one of the headline players at the event and will be riding high on confidence following his SA Open victory over the weekend.
He has been paired with Bryson Dechambeau and Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick for a 12:05pm start, while Louis Oosthuizen will play alongside three-time champion at the event Martin Kaymer and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello.
The 2010 Open Champions’s group will also be out on the field early in a 07:50am slot.
Another exciting South African in the field is Shaun Norris, currently the country’s third-highest-ranked golfer in the world. The 37-year-old finished second on the Order of Merit List on the Japanese Golfer Tour last year and is expected to be a force to be reckoned with this year.
He’ll tee off at 11:45am in a group that has Lewis Thomas and Thomas Pieters for company.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout will be eager to deliver a better showing than last week at the SA Open when he tees off with Rope Kakko and Ashun Woo in a group on Thursday, while Charl Schwartzel and Brandon Stone will also seek improvement in the Middle East this week as part of the 15-strong Saffa contingent.