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Top players race in to the new year

January 20, 2016

Four of the world's best golfers today raced into Abu Dhabi and a “game-changing” golfing year on the crest of a wave by trying their hand at the latest sensation sweeping the golf world.

In an all-action start to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, World Number 1 Jordan Spieth was partnered by World Number 5 and compatriot Rickie Fowler for ‘Team USA' in a “Rider Cup Desert” challenge against ‘Team Europe' represented by World Number 3 and four-time runner-up Ulsterman Rory McIlroy and World Number 6, super Swede Henrik Stenson at Abu Dhabi's ocean-front Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.

GolfBoarding has taken golf by storm in the last twelve months. Co-created by surfing legend and extreme sports pioneer Laird Hamilton, it gives golfers the opportunity to “surf the earth” as they ride the course skateboard style from hole to hole, aiming to make speed of play a thing of the past.

The four players are part of a star-studded field for the $2.7 million “Desert Swing” opener at Abu Dhabi Golf Club National course (January 21-24) teeing off in a year which also hosts the Ryder Cup and sees the sport's return to the Olympics in Rio.

Spieth, who is making his Arabian debut in the UAE capital, said: “I've spoken to Rickie a number of times about it and he said his experience of Abu Dhabi and this event was fantastic. I am really looking forward to playing this week."

His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, which owns the event said:

“We have the biggest names in golf at the championship this year – four of the world's top six, a raft of young aspiring ‘ones-to-watch' new-comers and a significant Falcon Trophy challenge from Asia's best. Every year the championship grows in stature as evidence by the fact that this year our field is stronger than any recent tournament hosted in the region.

“Stars like Jordan, Rory and Rickie belong to an exciting new generation of young and highly talented golfers – players who regularly win golf's biggest tournaments but also players who do so in a style and grace that inspires the youngest of fans.

“Our Rider Cup desert challenge was a bit of fun – to get the Championship's entertainment element off to a speedy start. We have significantly upgraded the spectator engagement this year with new activity zones, more prizes and a packed programme of player and sporting star appearances – something for everyone.”

World Number 3 Rory McIlroy commented: “There are many reasons why I always start my golfing season in Abu Dhabi. The quality of the course is always superb, we're guaranteed great support from the fans and, most importantly, the challenge offered by the strength of field really focuses my mind for the event. I want to find out where my game is early in the season and this is the best place to do it, especially with Jordan and Rickie playing. As I've come close to winning here a number of times in the past, I'm always looking to go one step further. In such a big year for golf, a solid start is vital for getting that all-important momentum.”

HSBC Global Head of Sponsorship and Events Giles Morgan said: “As a long term sponsor of the sport, we pride ourselves on opening up the world of golf and this year more than any other it is crucial that we deliver on this. With golf returning to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after a 112 year absence, the Ryder Cup, all four Majors and all four World Golf Championship events, there has never been more at stake. This could be a game-changing year for golf and it all starts here in Abu Dhabi.

“Of course, golf is built on strong traditions but with a new breed of young, stylish golfing superstars like Jordan, Rory and Rickie leading the charge, the sport has a gilt-edged opportunity to welcome a new generation of fans. If we want to attract a new audience we need to innovate and embrace new formats of the game – we know speed of play is a major issue for the sport and the GolfBoard is a pioneering idea that could really make a difference.

Rickie Fowler added: “The past two years have been pivotal in my career. Getting three great Tour wins under my belt and coming so close in the four Majors in 2014 has given me confidence. I'm feeling more comfortable with my game than ever, and I'm looking forward to starting with a tough test against some of my biggest rivals and friends in Abu Dhabi, which I hope will set me up nicely for the season ahead.”

Stenson, a former UAE resident of 10 years who has twice finished second at the tournament, said: “Abu Dhabi is very close to my heart. I'm one of only 12 players to have competed every year in Abu Dhabi since the first event in 2006, and I've always enjoyed starting my season here. After two runner-up placings, it's no secret that I would love to win on the National course.”

The 2016 edition of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship features a superstar line-up, including world number one Jordan Spieth in his Arabian debut, four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, American hot shot Rickie Fowler, super Swede Henrik Stenson and three-time Abu Dhabi champion Martin Kaymer.

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is owned and presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council.  Tickets and tailored packages are available via the event's official website www.abudhabigolfchampionship.com  at AED50 for a daily pass and AED150 for a four-day pass. Guests staying at any Abu Dhabi hotel over the Championship period enter free.





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