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Irish golfers prepare for Abu Dhabi
December 23, 2010

Three-time Major winner Pádraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy - one of golf's most highly rated young players - will be part of the all-star line-up contesting January's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

While the two share a bond off the course, when the Irishmen tee off at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club National Course from 20-23 January 2011, spectators will see a battle between two of the sport's toughest competitors.

The Irish duo joins an all-star field at the Championship, including Phil Mickelson (Masters champion), Martin Kaymer (PGA champion), Louis Oosthuizen (Open champion) and Graeme McDowell (US Open champion). When they assemble in the UAE capital in January, it will be the first time all four reigning Majors champions have competed in the Middle East at the same time. They will also be joined by England's Lee Westwood, the world's number one golfer, as he attempts to collect his first coveted Falcon trophy.

Harrington and McIlroy both desire to take bragging rights home to Ireland, just as they both hope to begin the Desert Swing leg of the European Tour with an Irish win.

"With both Rory and I coming from Ireland, I've taken a keen interest in his career and have been delighted to see his meteoric progress over the past couple of years," said Harrington. "He has had some fantastic results this year and I am sure he will go from strength to strength in the years to come.

"I am looking for a fast start to 2011 and a win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship would be the best possible way to kick off my season. However with the likes of Rory, Lee, Graeme and Phil already entered, I know it is going to be tougher than ever," Harrington added.

McIlroy remarked: "Pádraig's three Majors titles are phenomenal and I can only aspire to one day matching his achievements". The 21-year-old Ulsterman's Championship best was third last year, compared to Harrington's all-time highest of fifth.

"With Graeme McDowell's achievements this year, the Irishmen have done pretty well recently and I hope we'll see the Irish fans out at the National course giving us a bit of support," McIlroy continued.

"Playing alongside Graeme and Pádraig on the European Ryder Cup team as I made my debut in Wales in October was amazing and they were both very generous in sharing their experience, so I knew what to expect and how to prepare myself.

"But for all our friendship, I will be looking to finish at the top of the mini Irish leader board at the end of the week. I would love to take home the Falcon Trophy, which means a lot to all the players. It would be a great start to my year."

The 2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship marks its sixth outing and has traditionally provided golfers with a stern test. The intensity of the golf and strength of the line-up is matched by the hospitality extended to everybody at the National Course.

"With such a competitive field at the 2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, there are sure to be personal rivalries all over the National Course," said Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Manager for Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), the championship organiser.

"We all enjoy watching the competition between the players, but it is also a pleasure to see them shaking hands in the clubhouse after a hard-fought round. Pádraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy are two of the most popular golfers with players and fans, and both will be well supported in Abu Dhabi," Al Sheikh added.

Earlier this year, the Championship unveiled its new title sponsor, HSBC, the world's local bank and announced an increased prize fund of US$ 2.7million, which is US$ 500,000 up on 2010 - to make it the richest championship on the Desert Swing stage of the European Tour.

"Attracting the greatest players in the world is extremely important to us, "said Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship, HSBC." The quality of the field here is very important to us at HSBC, and we anticipate that Pádraig and Rory will be right up there challenging when it comes to the final day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January."

The Championship is looking to attract its biggest ever spectator turnout in 2011, with ADTA substantially expanding the Championship Village with more attractions, restaurants, cafés and competitions.

Abu Dhabi's golfing facilities have expanded significantly over the past year, with Abu Dhabi now boasting three world-class, championship-ready facilities. The Championship takes Abu Dhabi's name across the world to golfers who are able to book golfing holidays through the increasing number of international and local tour operators who are packaging the sport in the emirate.

Tickets are available via the event's official website, , as well as online at and . Phone bookings can be made on +971 4 210 8943.

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is backed by a high-profile sponsorship line-up that also includes Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group, Emirates Palace hotel, Etisalat, TDIC, Airbus, Xerox, CNN, Gulf News and Rolex.

For further information on Abu Dhabi call 020 7201 6400, see , or e-mail

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