The Open 2021: Preview
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The championship will be the opening tournament of the 2021 European Tour season and is one of four premium events which form the Rolex Series.
Contested on the Championship Course at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates, the event attracts many of the biggest names from the European and PGA tours, with Lee Westwood crowned champion in 2020.
World number four McIlroy returns to the event for the first time since 2018 and has four runner-up and four third-place finishes in his 11 previous appearances. World number three Thomas will be making his debut in the Middle East in just his fourth start in a regular European Tour event.
McIlroy said: “Abu Dhabi Golf Club is a world-class golf course, one that I have come close to winning several times over the years, so hopefully I can do well again and be right up there contending come Sunday.”
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship was elevated in 2019 to become one of the European Tour’s premium events that form the Rolex Series. The number of Rolex Series events was recently reduced from eight to four for the 2021 season, with the schedule being re-designed to reduce travel where possible, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Abu Dhabi Championship, the Scottish Open and the BMW PGA Championship were retained in the abbreviated Rolex Series, with each having total prize money of $8m and 8,000 Race to Dubai points on offer. The fourth event is the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, which will have $9m prize money on offer and 12,000 Race to Dubai points. These points contribute to a player’s position in the season-ending Race to Dubai standings, which replaced the European Tour’s Order of Merit in 2009.
World number 36 Lee Westwood will return in 2021 as defending champion after winning the trophy back in January, finishing on 19 under par, two shots ahead of 2017 and 2018 champion Tommy Fleetwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Victor Perez.
On December 13, Westwood won the 2020 Race to Dubai, edging out Patrick Reed to the title with his solo runner-up finish at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship. That tournament was won by Matthew Fitzpatrick, with Reed in third place, a shot back from Westwood.
Germany’s Martin Kaymer will also return in 2021 as the tournament’s most successful player, having lifted the trophy in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Among the other big names who could feature include four-time major winner Brooks Koepka and US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, who both made their debuts at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in 2020.
First staged in 2006, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is being hosted at the iconic Championship Course at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the 16th consecutive year. The par-72, 7,440-yard layout provides a stern challenge with 90 strategically placed bunkers and seven saltwater lakes. The perfectly manicured fairways, carved out of the surrounding desert by leading designer Peter Harradine, weave through undulating terrain that features pockets of palms and ornamental trees and shrubs.
The architecturally striking Falcon clubhouse has become iconic and the championship’s Falcon Trophy, lifted by the winner, is inspired by its design.