Last week we saw five of our ten (across both tours) finish in the top 10 but return nothing - a typical start to the season! I generally say the season starts here, now that we have some form to go on and are back to full field events on the main circuits. First up on Nicspicks is the Abu Dhabi championship where the top of the market is extremely strong; Martin Kaymer - who should be favourite for me with his record on this course - comes in behind the Nike boys McIlroy and Woods. Stan James are going six places this week in Abu Dhabi which could make all the difference
The Abu Dhabi Championship has been won by either Paul Casey or Martin Kaymer in five of the last seven editions and despite a MC by the latter in 2012 while out of form, Kaymer has looked in a different league to the whole field here in recent years. There have been some gradual changes to the course but in general, at 7,600 yards to a par 72, it sets up for the big hitters.
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Fairways are described as "narrower than average" at the Abu Dhabi championship 2013 but rough is not up according to the official site. Abu Dhabi GC is an exposed, flat course with it's main defence coming in the form of sand and wind - "The wind on the golf course is looking ominous today. Expect high scores if it stays this way" is a recent quote on Twitter from Jeev Milkha and with large greens set to play fast and firm, this combination could prove a tough test.
2013 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship Picks (prices from initial email)
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Pick #1: 1 unit e/w Paul Casey @ 30/1 Stan James - 6 places A record on Abu Dhabi GC only second to that of Martin Kaymer, Paul Casey is on a mission to get back towards the 3rd place he once held in the OWGR. A combination of injury woes and lack of motivation - Sergio Garcia style - had Casey in the golfing doldrums but four top 20s including two finishes in the top six pre Xmas says he's storming back to form and he continued where he left off with a decent warm up last week posting 69-69-69 over the weekend at the Volvo.
Pick #2: 1 unit e/w Henrik Stenson @ 30/1 Stan James - 6 places Residing in close proximity and a desert golf specialist, the Abu Dhabi Championship is one on top of the bucket list for Stenson, multiple runner up here. Like Casey, the Swede has had a few dodgy years but has shown signs of a resurgence of late. Winner of the SA Open Championship and 7th last time he was out in Dubai at the 2012 finale, Stenson's game is a fit for this track
Pick #3: 1 unit e/w George Coetzee @40/1 Stan James are going six places The last time we saw big George was when he carded a closing 65 for a top 10 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship but after some passport trouble in the UAE, he's raring to go. George has posted a few 63s of late and hit a 65 at last year's Abu Dhabi championship en route to a top six and again, the course should play into his hands.
Pick #4: 1 unit ew Branden Grace @40/1 Stan James missed the cut here last year but that was off the back of two wins early season for the four time 2012 winner. Sixth at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, Grace came back from an opening 75 last week to post a T7 which included a birdie blitz on his way home and can use his combination to power (32nd in driving distance) and precision to tackle Abu Dhabi GC
Pick #5: 1 unit ew Thomas Bjorn @45/1 Stan James are going six places is a man on form at the moment. When asked last week if someone should have a bet on him, he responded with a tounge-in-cheek "probably" so I'll gladly go with that this week on a course where he posted a weekend 65-68 to finish third last year. Bjorn has been good for Nicspicks of late and he posted a mountain of birdies last week but slipped up too often on a course not as suited to his game as Abu Dhabi. Decent value vthe field, especially if wind blows.
Abu Dhabi championship First round leader pick
0.5 units ew Marcel Siem @ 100/1(general) Was hoping for bigger with one of the books today but triple figure odds is huge for a man who often starts like a house on fire. Course should suit and Siem blitzed the back nine at the Volvo for a closing 66 last week so game is coming together
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