The new European Tour season tees off at a familiar location and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks to be First Round Leader at Abu Dhabi GC...
"What takes the eye is how many low rounds he's posted in the last six years here - a 7-under 65, two 6-under 66s and four 5-under 67s."
Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places
Weather forecast for Thursday: Be ready for a very clear split. Sunshine is a constant; it's in the high 70s throughout the golfing day. But as for the wind... this is where it gets interesting. Things can change but, as of Wednesday morning UK time, it's 4mph for the 08:00 starters but rises to 14mph by midday. From there it soars again to 18-20mph for the whole afternoon.
FRL history in Abu Dhabi
2020 - 64 Shaun Norris, Renato Paratore
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: History points to a morning bias too. Of the above list, eight of the 11 players to have held the first-round lead teed off in the early wave. This year, four of the top five in betting go out early so it's quite possible one of those could take first-round honours. But that still leaves plenty of others to go at. One thing's for sure given the weather forecast, all three of my picks will come from the morning wave.
To be honest, it's a question of earlier the better with the wind climbing as the day goes on.
Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Lee Westwood are in the second group out from the 10th and any of that trio could top the leaderboard.
But at a much bigger price I'm drawn to Ross Fisher at 75/1.
The Englishman heads off at 07:40 from the 1st so will hopefully get a good chunk of his round in before the trouser legs start flapping too much.
Fisher has an excellent course record, with second place in 2018, tied sixth last year and another top 10 in 2015.
What takes the eye is how many low rounds he's posted in the last six years here - a 7-under 65, two 6-under 66s and four 5-under 67s.
Three years ago he was third after day one while he's had other recent fast starts in the UAE. The latest came just last month when he opened the Golf in Dubai Championship with a superb 63 to lie second following the first lap.
There's easily enough there to back him at 75s.
Home in on Henrik
Henrik Stenson isn't the force of old but don't write him off just yet.
In his final PGA Tour start of 2020 he finished tied 23rd in the RSM Classic and concluded with a 63 to show he still has a low one in him.
He then closed out his year by taking T36 at the nearby DP World Tour Championship. There he opened with a 70 to finish round one in tied ninth.
That's the difficult sell out of the way; now for the good bit!
Stenson was the first-round leader here in 2017 and has been second after the opening 18 holes in 2007, 2008 and 2016.
In his last four visits he's gone on to finish third once and eighth twice.
Add in no end of other big performances and wins in this part of the world, one he made his home for so long, and another fast start would come as no surprise.
Like Fisher, he's a 75/1 chance.
Make it MacIntyre
I don't really want to look beyond 08:00 but Robert MacIntyre is bang on that start time so I'll make him my final pick.
The Scot spoke well at the end of last year about the positive changes he was implementing to reach the next level.
And it showed in his golf. MacIntyre was second after round one in the DP World Tour Championship and fourth with 18 to play before a poor finish.
Three starts earlier he was the first-round leader at the Cyprus Showdown - a tournament he went on to win and secure his maiden European Tour win - while at the start of December he set out with a 66 in the Golf in Dubai Championship.
With five top 25s in his six starts in the United Arab Emirates, he clearly enjoys desert golf and there's plenty to think he'll hit the ground running.
Take the 45/1.
Dave's 2021 First Round Leader P/L