Abu Dhabi Golf Championship: Dave Tindall rates the top 10 for course, current and UAE form

Thorbjorn Olesen has a superb record in the Middle East
Thorbjorn Olesen has a superb record in the Middle East

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 Golf Championship...

"In this event Thorbjorn Olesen can boast a second place (missed a play-off by a shot) and an eighth in three starts while he's finished in the top five on his last two starts in the Dubai Desert Classic."


Rory McIlroy - Odds to win 5.14/1

The win has proved elusive but Rory has been a top five machine in this event with five in the last six years. Everything points to another. After his usual routine of flying to Dubai to do a week's prep for this event and writing his goals for the season on the back of his boarding pass, the world number one said in his press conference: "It's a golf course I've always felt comfortable on, one that has suited me, and I've played well here in the past. I think this is my eighth year in a row starting the season off here, so I'm pretty familiar with the place and looking forward to another strong start to the season."

Last four events: 15-2-2-2
Course form: 2-MC-2-2-3-5-11
UAE form: 2-9-2-5-MC-1-5-2-11-10
Last 50 starts - Win: 12%, Top 5: 30%, Top 10: 52%


Henrik Stenson - Odds to Win 12.011/1

Stenson holds the course record at Abu Dhabi GC courtesy of a stunning 62 in 2006 and he finished second that year and was also runner-up in 2008. However, since it was toughened up he's struggled, missing the cut three times in the last six visits and finishing outside the top 20 in the other three. Of course, he did win the DP World Tour Championship on his last trip to the UAE in November and he revealed on Twitter at the start of the week: "Had a few days practice at Jumeirah golf estates in Dubai before heading up the road!"

Last four events: 1-3-24-2
Course form: MC-23-MC-42-21-MC-2-8-2
UAE form: 1-29-MC-1-26-23-7-20-MC-MC
Last 50 starts - Win: 8%, Top 5: 40%, Top 10: 48%


Justin Rose - Odds to win - 12.011/1

The former US Open champion went within a whisker of making a play-off here two years ago when his putt to tie Jamie Donaldson lipped out. That was his only start in the event although it was a familiar story as he's finished runner-up in three of his last four visits to the United Arab Emirates (the other two were at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in 2012 and 2014). Rose racks up a top 10 every other tournament while it's one in three for a top five. The prices (1.9110/11 and 3.052/1) reflect that so it may be better to go for the jugular and back him to win as he's surely due one in the Gulf.

Last four events: 2-48-4-4
Course form: 2-MC-2-2-3-5-11
UAE form: 2-9-2-5-MC-1-5-2-11-10
Last 50 starts - Win: 6%, Top 5: 36%, Top 10: 50%


Martin Kaymer - Odds to win 15.014/1

The German is a three-time champion (2008, 2010, 2011) in this event, winning with scores of -15, -21 and -24. However, since the course was toughened up ahead of the 2012 event it seems it's been Kaymer-proofed. Three starts since then have produced a missed cut, a sixth and a 31st. Perhaps they're more a reflection of his wider struggles and inconsistencies in that period so it would be dangerous to take him on. However, surprisingly poor top 5 and top 10 stats make it tempting to oppose the US Open champion. Brave or stupid?

Last four events: 2-21-39-60
Course form: 31-6-MC-1-1-2-1-MC
UAE form: 39-31-19-6-26-13-MC-11-31-1
Last 50 starts - Win: 4%, Top 5: 10%, Top 10: 20%


Rickie Fowler - Odds to win 17.016/1

This is new ground for the young American. Not only is he making his tournament debut, he's also teeing it up in the UAE for the first time. It shouldn't deter anyone from backing him to thrive though. In 2014 he played in plenty of events overseas, finishing third in China, runner-up in The Open at Liverpool, eighth in the Scottish Open and eighth in Thailand. He was also runner-up in the 2013 Australian PGA Championship. Fowler's top 5 and top 10 stats for the last 50 events (see below) are solid but if we filter it down to the last 10 they're superb (50% top 5, 90% top 10). While he still finds wins difficult to come by, these remain the markets to play him in.

Last four events: 3-8-4-23
Course form: Debut
UAE form: Debut
Last 50 starts - Win: 0%, Top 5: 18%, Top 10: 34%


Jamie Donaldson - Odds to win 30.029/1

His winning shot in the Ryder Cup may have set a new high, but Donaldson's victory in this event two years ago remains his most impressive feat on an individual level. With finishes of fifth (2013) and fourth (2014) in the last two runnings of the Race To Dubai he's now very much embedded among the elite of the European Tour but any hopes that he might still fly under the radar a little are tempered by looking at his top 5 and top 10 prices this week. They offer little appeal either way although, if anything, he'd be a top 5 lay at 6.05/1.

Last four events: WD-12-19-24
Course form: 56-1-30-11-21-50-23-MC
UAE form: 12-20-56-8-37-1-9-16-30-26
Last 50 starts - Win: 2%, Top 5: 16%, Top 10: 28%


Danny Willett - Odds to win 30.029/1

While Donaldson now has a seat at European golf's top table, the question amongst punters is how soon can Willett secure his place - if at all? The signs look promising for the Englishman given the way he finished 2014 with a superb win at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and two other top fours in his other three starts. He has steady and solid form in this event - and the UAE in general - so again it's assessing whether he can step it up. It's interesting to note that he has better top 5 and top 10 records over his last 50 events than Martin Kaymer.

Last four events: 4-1-21-4
Course form: 19-23-MC-69-MC-8
UAE form: 21-13-19-MC-23-26-33-MC-48-69
Last 50 starts - Win: 2%, Top 5: 18%, Top 10: 26%


Thorbjorn Olesen - Odds to win 32.031/1

The Dane has a superb record in the Middle East so this is always a good time to get him onside. In this event he can boast a second place (missed a play-off by a shot) and an eighth in three starts while he's finished in the top five on his last two starts in the Dubai Desert Classic. Don't forget the Qatar Masters either as he was third there last year. Olesen has had his struggles over the last few years but he ended 2014 by making 14 straight cuts and bagging a morale-boosting victory in the Perth International. He ended it with a 12th in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Last four events: 12-72-6-28
Course form: 2-MC-2-2-3-5-11
UAE form: 2-9-2-5-MC-1-5-2-11-10
Last 50 starts - Win: 2%, Top 5: 6%, Top 10: 14%


Charl Schwartzel - Odds to win 40.039/1

Schwartzel should be arriving here on the back of a joyous first win in his national Open but a gut-wrenching collapse over the final few holes and a play-off loss in South Africa last week means he'll surely be battling all sorts of demons. He doesn't spring to mind as someone to follow in this part of the world but his record in both this event and the UAE as a whole is very solid with a good smattering of top 10s and top 5s. However, a total loss of confidence off the tee suggests he's a lay rather than a back this week although the market knows this.

Last four events: 2-26-14-47
Course form: 17-8-34-8
UAE form: 47-3-17-5-8-21-38
Last 50 starts - Win: 4%, Top 5: 16%, Top 10: 30%


Victor Dubuisson - Odds to win 40.039/1

It's two missed cuts out of two for the dashing Frenchman in this event so does he have a problem with the course or does he struggle to shake off the rust in the first event of a new year? He certainly doesn't have an aversion to desert golf, far from it. Dubuisson has finished second and third in the last two editions of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai while he was also runner-up in the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona last year. Impressive long-term top 5 and top 10 stats suggests we should be for rather than against him.

Last four events: MC-2-15-WD
Course form: MC-MC
UAE form: 2-3-MC-MC-36-MC-MC-31
Last 50 starts - Win: 2%, Top 5: 24%, Top 10: 32%


Conclusion

Thorbjorn Olesen's top 5 stats over his last 50 events (just 6%) are poor but let's see what they look like after we put in a Middle East filter. Looking at his performances in the region over the last two seasons, he's teed it up eight times and finished in the top five on four occasions. That 6% strike rate suddenly leaps to 50%.

Given the way he finished 2014, the young Dane is a definite top 5 back this week at around the 9.28/1 mark.

I'm tempted by top 10 lays of Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer but they're risky so will keep it simple by backing Rory for a top 5.

The numbers make it easy to justify. He's made the top 5 in five of his last six starts in this event and yet we are getting even money for another.


Recommended Bets
Back Thorbjorn Olesen for Top 5 Finish @ 9.28/1
Back Rory McIlroy for Top 5 Finish @ 2.01/1


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