Can DJ be stopped in the desert?

    2018-01-17 13:08
    Cape Town - The European Tour’s 2018 season starts in earnest this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, a tournament played on one of the best courses the world has to offer. From relatively humble beginnings, the start of the desert swing is no longer a prequel to the Dubai Desert Classic.

    Instead, the field this week includes defending Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood, who happened to win it last time around, the in-form Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar and fit-again Rory McIlroy. Oh, and of course, Dustin Johnson. The world’s biggest and baddest player and the undisputed best golfer on planet earth.

    The rest of the field is hardly a group of also-rans with Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar and the king of Dubai, Martin Kaymer. The German has three wins in 11 starts here including three other top five finish making him one to beat any time they peg it up at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club under the watchful eye of the magnificent falcon clubhouse.

    There are some 10 other South Africans in the field this week joining Grace, all looking to manufacture a way of knocking DJ off his pedestal something that England’s Fleetwood did in 2017 - by a single stroke.

    Can Fleetwood, or anyone for that matter, stop what looks like an inevitable win for Johnson? It’s hard to make a solid argument for anything but a triumph especially in light of the American’s dismantling of the Kapalua Course earlier in January.

    Since figuring out the small chink in his armour, his inconsistent wedge play, Johnson has looked unbeatable. The slip on the eve of The Masters derailed his 2017 season but he’s firmly back on track and hitting it as well as ever. He knows the course well and is long and powerful enough to deal with any missed fairway, a mistake that many in the field can ill-afford.

    Rory McIlroy certainly stands out from the crowd as someone who could go 12 rounds with Johnson but he’s competition rusty after three months out, leaving Justin Rose as the main contender. He ended 2017 in spectacular style but his record in Abu Dhabi is iffy with just one top five in the last few years.

    South Africans tend to do well at this event - Branden Grace, Dean Burmester, Darren Fichardt and George Coetzee - all have recorded strong finishes but realistically only the Nedbank Golf Challenge winner has a shot this week considering the field. Back him at 22/1 to get his 2018 rolling after his miss at Glendower. A sneaky outside bet for top South African could be Dean Burmester at 8/1.

    Johnson is rightly the favourite at 5/1 and the trend is likely to continue that one of the top priced players will reign supreme and maybe by three shots (9/2). Oh, and don’t forget Kaymer at 31/1 - he is after all the king of Abu Dhabi. 

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