Spieth, McIlroy and Fowler set for Abu Dhabi desert showdown
By Stephanie Wei under European Tour

One of the biggest events on the European Tour’s early 2016 schedule, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, in January will feature a star-studded field, with Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler making commitments to play in the event (which takes place opposite to the PGA Tour’s event in Palm Desert that’s formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic). It’s nice to see a few young Americans expand their horizons and travel to compete in international tournaments.

Wait, let’s be real — HSBC wrote a few seven-digit checks to entice the young stars for their trouble (since appearance fees aren’t prohibited on the European Tour as they technically are on the PGA Tour). Who says “no” to free money to play for more money?

Still! Great news for the tournament. (In fact, I’m now considering finding a way to make the trip to cover it.)

From the press release:

And the excitement is already building for the Arabian debut of Spieth. The 22-year-old Texan phenomenon, who’s now in the vanguard of the game, is sure that with a 2016 start in Abu Dhabi he can maintain a golfing form that has seen him secure back-to-back Major wins, become the world’s number one and Fed-Ex Cup champion.

“I am looking forward to coming to Abu Dhabi, especially after Rickie told me about what a fantastic event it is. I love to travel and see the world and I am excited to not only play in the event but also checking out Abu Dhabi for the first time.”

Four-time Major winner and world number three Rory McIlroy has his sights focused on winning his first Falcon Trophy, having clinched four runner up slots over the past eight years. The Ulsterman believes starting his season against the world’s best will be the driving force he needs to reclaim the world number one title in 2016.

“Abu Dhabi always brings an outstanding player field, and with Jordan and Rickie competing in January, this will a superb test for me to start off the 2016 season. I’ve come close in Abu Dhabi several times now, so I’ll be 100% ready for January’s challenge.”

World number five Fowler, who has repeatedly acknowledged the ‘responsibility’ of being a sporting superstar, is likely to also draw a bigger-than-ever following to the National Course fairways and greens. The 26-year-old made his Arabian debut in Abu Dhabi last January and has his eyes set on the ‘Falcon Trophy’, believing a win will put him in good stead for a strong 2016 season.

“The past two years have been pivotal in my career,” said Fowler. “Getting three great Tour wins under my belt this year and coming so close in the four Majors in 2014 has given me confidence. I’m feeling more comfortable with my game than ever, and I’m looking forward to starting with a tough test against some of the big names in Abu Dhabi, which I hope will set me up nicely for the season ahead.”

39-year-old Swede Henrik Stenson, who has been a pro since Spieth was in diapers, will also be among the bold-faced names in the field. Stenson lived in the UAE (Dubai) for 10 years and has finished runner-up twice at the event.

“Abu Dhabi is very close to my heart,” said Stenson. “I’m one of only 14 players to have competed every year in Abu Dhabi since the first event in 2006, and I’ve always enjoyed starting my season there. After two runner-up placings, it’s no secret that I would love to win on the National course. I’m going into my second decade of starting in Abu Dhabi, so it would be something very special for me.”