Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places
Weather forecast for Abu Dhabi GC, UAE: After rain in the build-up, it’s sunny all day, with temperatures starting in the mid-60s and settling around 70 degrees in the afternoon. Winds will be 7mph for the morning wave but increase to 11mph at around 1pm.
FRL history in Abu Dhabi
2019 – 62 Shane Lowry
2018 – 66 Tommy Fleetwood, Hideto Tanihara
2017 – 64 Henrik Stenson
2016 – 64 Bryson DeChambeau (amateur)
2015 – 64 Martin Kaymer
2014 – 67 Matthew Baldwin, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Romain Wattel
Strategy: Seven of the nine players to have held the first-round lead have teed off in the morning so there’s definitely an a.m. bias. That should be in play again this year with softer conditions greeting the early starters. The wind also picks up a little in the afternoon so I’m definitely looking at those morning tee-times for my picks. It’s fair to say that plenty of big names have held the 18-hole lead too so that could be another angle.
Kaymer to click early again
Martin Kaymer is a three-time winner of this event and he knows a thing or two about starting fast as well.
The German emerged as the first-round leader in both 2008 and 2015. In 2017 he was second after the opening lap. And an opening 66 put him in the top six after day one 12 months ago.
Remarkably, in terms of its consistency, he’s been outside the top 20 after round just once in his last 12 appearances.
He simply loves this layout and just can’t wait to get going as soon as he sees it again.
Kaymer also played some good golf at the end of 2019 with a fifth and a pair of T21s in his last four starts and in three of those he was in the top 17 after Thursday’s action.
A morning tee-time of 07:50 looks to give him a great chance of putting himself on the early leaderboard again so take the 40/1.
Dive in for Detry
Coming to a R1 leaderboard near you… Thomas Detry.
The Belgian’s last six openers read 67-66-69-67-63-68.
That little lot has helped him take the first-round lead at the Thailand Masters, sit second after day one at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and lie in the top eight at the Turkish Airlines Open, DP World Tour Championship and Mauritius Open.
It’s at the end of tournament where he can’t quite cross the line but that doesn’t worry us here.
Detry has had two previous looks at Abu Dhabi and, on debut in 2018, he posted a third-round 64 to show he can go low on this layout. He eventually finished tied ninth.
He’s full of confidence after a run of three top fours in his last five starts and a morning time (09:00 from the 10th) gives him the platform to make another bold beginning.
Colsaerts can cash in on morning start
Nicolas Colsaerts is having something of a resurgence after popping up to win the Open de France back in October – his first European Tour victory for seven years.
The swagger is definitely back and just three days before Christmas he posted T7 in the Thailand Masters after shooting 64-66 on the weekend.
So how about some of the Colsaerts confidence spilling out in round one here?
He’s finished day one in the top 10 twice in his last seven worldwide starts and has fired in the 60s in four of his last six openers in Abu Dhabi.
It’s a little bit more speculative than the other two picks but the rewards are much greater with Colsaerts 100/1 to do the business from his 08:10 tee-time (10th).