Abu Dhabi Championship: Seven Scots involved as 'desert swing' begins

Marc Warren
Marc Warren's last European Tour title came in 2014

The 2017 European Tour's desert swing gets underway on Thursday with the Abu Dhabi Championship.

It's the first of three significant tournaments in the Middle East and is followed by the Qatar Masters and the Dubai Desert Classic.

Two of the world's top four players will be competing and that would have been three but for Rory McIlroy's rib injury forcing the Northern Irishman to withdraw.

Here are a few key things to note about the next few days.

Lee Westwood
England's Lee Westwood takes a scenic route at the Abu Dhabi Golf Course

Where is it?

The Abu Dhabi Golf Club's par-72 Championship course stretches out over 7,583 yards and is regarded as one of the finest in the Middle East.

This is the 12th edition of the tournament and it always attracts an impressive field.

Who won it last year?

The USA's Rickie Fowler triumphed in 2016, becoming the first American to do so since the tournament's inaugural event in 2006 when Chris DiMarco was victorious.

Rickie Fowler
Fowler triumphed at the Abu Dhabi Championship in 2016

California-born Fowler, 28, finished with a one-stroke winning margin over Belgium's Thomas Pieters, who also impressed during the 2016 Ryder Cup for Europe.

Any Scots playing in it?

Yes. Seven of them.

Linlithgow's Stephen Gallacher makes his 500th European Tour event appearance in Abu Dhabi and after struggling with injury, is confident of getting back to his best form with new clubs and a new swing.

Both East Kilbride's Marc Warren and Aberdeen's Richie Ramsay are in action and both will be eager to add to their most recent European Tour titles in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

A joint fourth finish at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in Leopard Creek, South Africa has given Glasgow's Scott Jamieson confidence ahead of his first tournament of the year, while experienced Aberdonian Paul Lawrie also plays having amassed eight European Tour titles so far in his career.

David Drysdale and Rory McIlroy
David Drysdale (left) played a round with Rory McIlroy at last week's SA Open

Cocksburnpath's David Drysdale did well to wind up tied for seventh at last week's SA Open and will be confident of kicking on to another strong finish in Abu Dhabi, while Grantown on Spey's Duncan Stewart wants to atone for a disappointing showing at Glendower.

Big names?

Minus the injured McIlroy, the headliners are world number three Dustin Johnson and world number four Henrik Stenson.

The Swede topped the Race to Dubai order of merit in 2016, which added to his Open triumph at Royal Troon.

American Johnson won the US Open at Oakmont last summer.

Fowler will aim to become the second player to make a successful defence of the title after Germany's Martin Kaymer did so in 2011.

What's up for grabs?

The prize pot in Abu Dhabi equates to just under £2.2m, with the winner taking approximately £365,000.

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