Dave Tindall arms you with the stats that matter for a punt on the Top 5 and Top 10 Finish markets ahead of the Abu Dhabi Championship...
"The revelation that he put in three weeks of solid winter training (something he didn't do in 2014 and 2015) in sunny desert conditions in Phoenix adds another layer of confidence."
With Rory McIlroy pulling out injured, DJ is the new market leader in Dubai. But does he make appeal for backers? Obviously, we're feeling around in the dark a little as this is his tournament debut and, in fact, first time he's ever teed it up in the Middle East. However, his passport has more stamps in it that most American golfers so he's good at adapting to new venues and we've seen him win in China. DJ's only start this season resulted in T6 at the SBS Tournament of Champions. His assessment there: "I'm happy the way I played. I struggled on the greens, though, this week. I didn't make any putts. I putted well. Just nothing went in the hole. I lipped-out of maybe 12 or 13 putts."
Last four events: 6-35-6-1
Course form: Debut
UAE form: Never played
Last 50 starts - Win: 8%, Top 5: 34%, Top 10: 56%
Despite early success at this venue, Stenson looked a lay last year. He'd not even made the top 20 in his last seven starts here and was coming in after knee surgery. Instead, he hit the ground running with a 65 and ended third. He's a multiple winner in this part of the world and made the top 10 in all three of his appearances in the UAE in 2016. "I made Dubai my home for almost ten years and feel very comfortable in this part of the world and played some great golf," he reminded us last year. He needs to win this event to complete the UAE treble of Abu Dhabi-Dubai Desert Classic-DP World Tour Championship but do we trust him enough in his first start of the season despite the brilliant golf he's capable of when at his best?
Last four events: 9-8-2-41
Course form: 3-MC-MC-23-MC-42-21-MC-2-8-2
UAE form: 9-6-3-59-13-MC-1-29-MC-1
Last 50 starts - Win: 6%, Top 5: 40%, Top 10: 52%
Fowler shot 70-68-65-69 to lift the trophy here last year and become the second American winner in Abu Dhabi. He did it by beating Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth and it took him to No.4 in the world rankings. "It's a great golf course. It's a good, fun test. It's fairly straightforward. It's not tricked up. You've got to drive the ball well, and having a bit of rough definitely makes that a premium to be in the fairway," said Fowler, who finished the week 4th in Driving Accuracy and 10th for Greens In Regulation. "It's nice to feel comfortable on the greens," he said after round three (ended 16th in Putting Average). One concern is that the three times he's made a title defence in his career, he's finished MC-MC-46.
Last four events: 6-59-46-7
Course form: 1-66
UAE form: 1-66
Last 50 starts - Win: 8%, Top 5: 20%, Top 10: 36%
The Swede was the European Tour's hottest player in the second half of 2016 and racked up an amazing run of four wins in 11 starts. Was that just a golden spell or should we now view him in a different light? Noren certainly isn't resting on his laurels and said he still wants to get "technically better" and hit draws as well as his usual fade at will. His standard performance in this field is a finish somewhere in the pack and he's never made the top 10 and has just a single top 20 from his nine starts. It's a dilemma. On last year's form, he's a back for a top 5/10. On course form, he's a definite lay.
Last four events: 23-1-12-37
Course form: 35-37-32-61-31-43-MC-11-MC
UAE form: 23-50-35-38-2-37-30-32-39-MC
Last 50 starts - Win: 10%, Top 5: 16%, Top 10: 26%
"Good memories, good vibe, good weather, it's all good," said Pieters last year as he backed up his fourth place in 2015 with a second, the Belgian finishing just one shot behind winner Rickie Fowler. Pieters says this course suits him and, when asked to expand why, told reporters: "If you drive it well and drive it long; guys are going to hit 5‑irons, and I'm hitting 9‑iron or wedge in. That's a big difference." Missing fairways held him back at the end of 2016 but he's clearly something very special having finished as the top points scorer when making his debut in last year's Ryder Cup. When he's on, he's on so perhaps it's better to be more aggressive and back him for top five if having a pro-Pieters punt.
Last four events: 40-34-14-31
Course form: 2-4-MC
UAE form: 40-MC-2-22-42-4-MC
Last 50 starts - Win: 6%, Top 5: 16%, Top 10: 20%
"It feels like home to me," said the Spaniard when interviewed here last year. "I like the sun. I like a gentle breeze and I like palm trees. These courses, they are always in really good shape, and I think they suit my game." It's clear that RCB really enjoys desert golf and, although his best results have come in Dubai (he's a resident there), his record here is pretty strong too. He has a fourth and a seventh and two other top 15s. Although not finding a win in 2016, he put in a series of big performances and ended it by finishing runner-up in the Hong Kong Open last month. Top 5/10 markets are the perfect way to play him as he often excels but rarely wins.
Last four events: 2-23-56-19
Course form: 14-MC-4-23-48-7-43-15
UAE form: 23-2-14-22-MC-MC-9-41-4-14
Last 50 starts - Win: 0%, Top 5: 22%, Top 10: 28%
"This is my third year on Tour now, and I've done well in big events and now I've won, I'm comfortable out there," said Hatton after taking second place in last November's DP Tour Championship in Dubai. That helped him finish fourth on the Race to Dubai and capped a season in which he won the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and managed a top five and a top 10 in the year's two final majors. Hatton really came to prominence in these desert events and his form in the UAE shows six top 10s in just 10 starts. Two of those came in Abu Dhabi so it looks a great place to support him.
Last four events: 2-25-10-23
Course form: 46-6-10
UAE form: 2-8-46-13-55-6-6-MC-10-6
Last 50 starts - Win: 2%, Top 5: 16%, Top 10: 28%
The Austrian ended 2016 by racking up six top 10 finishes in his final seven starts. Five of those were top fives. The numbers are also strong in terms of regional form; he has four top 10s and three other top 20s in his last eight starts in the United Arab Emirates. Although he only has one top 10 from five starts in this event, he's shot some fine rounds (a 65 and two 66s) and desert golf certainly suits him. Wiesberger finished sixth in Greens In Regulation last year and if his putter works then another top 10 looks very much on the cards.
Last four events: 4-4-35-2
Course form: 26-6-MC-21-MC
UAE form: 4-16-26-17-4-6-16-9-MC-34
Last 50 starts - Win: 2%, Top 5: 16%, Top 10: 22%
Kaymer is a three-time winner in Abu Dhabi (2008, 2010 and 2011) and also finished runner-up in 2009, third in 2015 and sixth in 2013. Amazingly, he blew a 10-shot lead in the final round two years ago to lose to unheralded Gary Stal although his perspective was impressive: "It was only two hours; I had 50, 55 other great hours here before on the golf course, so I'd rather focus on that." Writing in a special European Tour player blog this week, Kaymer says of Abu Dhabi: "It is a place I enjoy in every way. I just see a lot of positive shots here, even before I hit them. And then when you pull them off, which has happened a few times over the years here, you get some confidence from that, too. It's a cycle of success."
Last four events: 19-44-40-6
Course form: 16-3-31-6-MC-1-1-2-1-MC
UAE form: 19-MC-16-10-4-3-39-31-19-6
Last 50 starts - Win: 0%, Top 5: 8%, Top 10: 24%
An appears to love golf in this part of the world and, including Challenge Tour events, has never finished outside the top 15 in eight starts in the United Arab Emirates. That includes T12 (2015) and T5 (2016) at this venue so that superb overall consistency looks a dream for top 5/10 backers. "I know this is a challenging course and requires a very good iron game and driving game," says An and he's risen to the challenge by finishing in the top 10 for Greens In Regulation in both his starts here. As with most of the field, we're guessing a little bit on how well prepared he is. There wasn't that doubt last year as he'd played in the previous week's EurAsia Cup.
Last four events: 13-10-63-39
Course form: 5-12
UAE form: 13-4-5-4-13-12-4-14
Last 50 starts - Win: 2%, Top 5: 18%, Top 10: 28%
It's an obvious call but Martin Kaymer has a sensational record at this course and has excelled through all the tweaks that have been made down the years.
The revelation that he put in three weeks of solid winter training (something he didn't do in 2014 and 2015) in sunny desert conditions in Phoenix adds another layer of confidence.
As five of his top 10s here are actually top 5s (1-2-1-1-3) I'm prepared to make the more aggressive play and take the 6.86/1.
I'll also back Rafa Cabrera-Bello for a top 10 at 3.3512/5. Again, thanks to Twitter, we know that he's ready to go.
A few days ago, he tweeted: "Really great practice this last week over at @jebelaliresort with @DavidLeadbetter Game ready and excited to start the year again!"
His second place in Hong Kong last month suggests there wasn't too much rust to remove anyway and RCB may have a fitness/sharpness edge this week.
In conditions he loves, expect the Spaniard to be prominent.
Back Martin Kaymer for Top 5 @ 6.86/1
Back Rafa Cabrera-Bello for Top 10 @ 3.3512/5
Dave's 2017 Top 5/10 P/L (based on £10 per selection)