A strong field takes centre stage for the start of the desert swing in Europe with Rory McIlroy - 5.00 - headlining at an Abu Dhabi GC track that fits his eye. Rory has five top fives from seven starts here including three runners-up finishes. If not for a two stroke penalty on Sunday last year, the Irishman may have had his hands on the trophy by now.
Henrik Stenson - 13.00 - is a former resident of this part of the world and is on record saying it's an event he'd really like to add to his resume. It's the main big one that's eluded him in the Far East and that's arguably a surprise given the setup of the track.
Two men besides Rory have superb form here; one is Paul Casey who is absent this week and the other is German Martin Kaymer who quite literally owns the course. I always have Martin down as the man to beat in Abu Dhabi despite McIlroy's obvious chances.
The course - Abu Dhabi GC
There has been a noticeable decline in the winning scores since the yearly over seeding of the rough with Rye grass beginning in 2013, and while it looks lush once again this year, whisperings are that it's down a little from 2014. The Abu Dhabi track now stretches over 7,600 yards to a par of 72 and features large, firm and fast greens, with fairways quite narrow and fiery.
Premium is on tee to green play where total driving and mid iron accuracy combined with distance control is a prerequisite, hence Kaymer and McIlroy's dominance in the past. Water features throughout, and strategically placed bunkers will add to the challenge. The course is exposed and the wind often gets up, even to the point of igniting sandstorms at times.
Three from the pack
As mentioned, Martin Kaymer - 11.00 - simply loves it around this track, picking up three wins and a second in succession from 2008-2011 and adding a top six to the records in 2013. In the latter of his three victories, the German carded a 72-hole tournament low where he blitzed the field for a -24 total.
Kaymer admits he feels extremely relaxed in Abu Dhabi, the course is one of his favourites and it's like a "home away from home". The German was back to top form last year taking down the US Open and the Players Championship and off the back of a runner-up in Thailand we may see him own Abu Dhabi GC once again.
A man who has found his form again after a year in the doldrums is confidence player Branden Grace - 41.00. The South African shook off the rust last week at Glendower eventually finishing 15th. This followed a destruction of a strong quality field at Leopard Creek last month giving the 26-year-old his fifth European Tour title.
Branden also has form in Dubai, having finished off the 2014 season with a top 10 on the Earth course and he's also got form here in Abu Dhabi, finishing fifth in 2013. The South African is strong with the driver and a low ball flight will help if the wind gets up. He owns a high GIR%, and a putting average of 28.88 in 2015.
Rafa Cabrera Bello - 51.00 - has a standout record in this part of the world. One of Rafa's wins came in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic where he opened with a 63 in 2012. The Spaniards' most recent outing was also a top 10 in the season ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Rafa tied for fourth here last year and went one better the following week in Qatar. In fact, he averages 23rd from six consecutive starts around Abu Dhabi GC. Rafa is capable of going very low and can max out well over 300 yards off the tee. He owns a standout GIR percentage circa 75% which really catches the eye for the track in question.
One of my men to watch this year is Byeong Hun An - 201.0 - and after a promising top 25 in his first official event at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, Abu Dhabi GC may be the ideal fit for him to push on from there. Long and straight off the tee and capable of stringing birdies together, Byeong has been in Abu Dhabi practising since Sunday. Subsidiary markets may be an angle here.