Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Holes 7-12 with Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Quiros, Stenson

Abu Dhabi Golf Club

Q: How do you make one of the best tournaments on the European Tour schedule even better?
A: Lengthen the course, toughen up the bunkering and bring in one of most innovative sponsors in golf.
Tim Maitland sat down with some of the world’s top players to work out how to plot your way to success at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

A great event is just about to get better. The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and the Abu Dhabi Golf Club have produced some great championships and some great champions: Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey, who seem to have taken out a time-share on the trophy, would feature on anyone’s list of Europe’s elite golfers.

In today's golf blog, Tim speaks with a select group of European Tour golfers including Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer about how best to navigate through holes 7-12 of the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Hole 7 Par 3 200 yards 182 metres

Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland)
Winner of 2010 US Open Championship at Pebble Beach, California; 2010 Celtic Manor Wales Open and 2010 Andalucia Masters at Valderrama, Spain. Claimed the decisive point to seal Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup win.  

This is an intimidating-looking par three. It’s a 200-yard slightly-downhill shot and you’ve got some rocks at the front of the green sitting up and looking at you. 

It’s an interesting green because the front of it is elevated and the rear of the green is elevated as well. So, it requires a very accurate three to a six iron depending on the wind direction – generally a four or five iron in the prevailing wind – into a bowl shaped green. You’ve really got to just try and beat the front edge. It’s really the hump at the front that you’ve got to be aware of. 

It’s a good hole: a bowl-shaped green and you’ve got to be on the correct side of the pin: you want to be beyond the front pins and short of the back pins. 

The mistake you don’t want to make: It’s a difficult green and you don’t want to go missing this one. You certainly don’t want to short-side yourself. To back flags, over the back is not good and to front flags, short’s not good.

Hole 8 Par 5 597 yards 546 metres

Alvaro Quiros (Spain)
 Winner of the 2010 Open de Espana in Seville, Spain and the 2009 Commercialbank Qatar Masters. One of the longest hitters in the game, in 2008 Alvaro eagled the eighth hole when it was playing into the wind, hitting driver and two iron to 10 feet.

This is a very tight fairway at the end. It’s wide, but it turns left. Most of the time you are hitting it to a very small area. They’ve made it 23 metres longer this year, but before I could hit it straight – I didn’t need to hit it with draw. I just focused on two palm trees on my line, so I would finish just to the left of the bunkers that are at the end of the fairway on the right hand side where it turns. 

It depends how the wind is and the conditions, but if I catch the fairway normally I can hit it in two. If I have a little bit of wind helping I could use a five, four or three iron. Without wind I would say three wood or five wood.

For normal human beings? It’s not that bad a situation for the rest of them, because if you can’t reach the green in two the lay-up is not that tight. They have a simple, comfortable third shot with a 58 degree wedge. These guys are really good with a 58 degree wedge.

Obviously if I can reach the fairway I have an advantage. I definitely have an advantage. 

The green receives the ball on an upslope – this is the good thing – this is why I can hit a long club and stop it easily. It’s not one of those typical holes where you really have to stop the ball quickly. The great thing about the golf course is that normally it is in a perfect condition. Everything on the green can finish in the hole if you hit a good putt. It makes a difference!

The mistake you don’t want to make: No, the eighth is a good hole for me, but the 10th I have no advantage over there because the fairway becomes very tight at my distance and not for the others.

Hole 9 Par 4 456 yards 417 metres

Rhys Davies (Wales)
Winner of the 2010 Hassan II Golf Trophy Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Morocco.

You know exactly where you are in the world standing on the tee. I think that clubhouse is fantastic! The falcon is a great starting point for this hole: depending a little bit on the wind you’re looking at picking out a point of the wing as an aiming point. The bend in the wing is a good point if you want to take an aggressive line down the right-hand side; otherwise you might favour somewhere slightly further left. 

You try to get a good solid tee shot away, preferably a strong fade, but it’s a hole you could do with a good drive on.

It’s a long par four that often plays into the wind, so you’ve often got a long second shot. It can be a five, four or even a three iron and you’re looking at a slightly angled green. The bunker comes into play on the right hand side of it, particularly when the pin is tucked away in the back, right corner, which it often is on a Sunday of the tournament. You might look to hit a gentle fade and try and run the ball up the length of the green.

The mistake you don’t want to make: Mistake? If you can put the ball into the middle of the green and pin high you’re always going to be happy on this hole. It is a demanding hole; I think it’s one of the tougher ones on the golf course and if you could find the middle of the green four days out of four you’d be very pleased.

Hole 10 Par 5 582 yards 532 metres

Martin_Kaymer_Abu_Dhabi_TrophyMartin Kaymer (Germany)
Defending champions and two-time winner of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Winner of the 2010 Race to Dubai and the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Added two more wins in consecutive tournaments at the 2010 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, Scotland and the 2010 KLM Open in the Netherlands. Also claimed the 2010 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.  Member of Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup-winning team.

I usually hit driver over the left side of the bunkers at the front of the fairway. They’ve added length to the hole with the new tee, but before if I was on the fairway I would have a chance to go for the green in two, probably with a five wood or three wood. If it’s in the rough, I lay it up, but I’m still going for birdie with the wedge approach.

If I go for the green I find it’s always better to be left of the flag. The bunker to the left of the green is never bad, although they’ve made all the greenside bunkers deeper this year, so we’ll have to see. From there you always used to have a realistic birdie chance. 

The pin positions are normally two in the back and one on the right, so three times it was a realistic birdie chance out of that bunker. If the pin is short left it’s a tough one, so then you’re miss should be the bunker on the right in front of the green.

The priority is to hit the fairway in order to get home in two. Otherwise you lay it up to a comfortable number – for me it would be 95 metres or 100 yards. 

The second year I played here, this was my first hole and I started off with an eagle, so obviously it is possible to make putts here.

The mistake you don’t want to make: On the right side of the green there are some trees and that is obviously the worst place you can be.

Hole 11 Par 4 417 yards 381 metres

Ross Fisher (England)
Winner of the 2010 3 Irish Open at Killarney, Republic of Ireland. Member of Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup-winning team.

Eleven is quite a tough par four. It’s not a long hole and you can either hit driver and take on the traps, or you hit something down towards the left-hand trap, probably with a three wood. If you lay-back you’re going at it with anything from a nine iron to a wedge. If you’re a bit more aggressive off the tee, you’re going in with a sand wedge or a lob wedge. 

 I can’t really remember the green that well. From memory there’s a little bit of a tier to the green, but it’s pretty simple, although it’s not the biggest green.

The mistake you don’t want to make: Off the tee you’ve got to put it on the fairway.

Hole 12 Par 3 186 yards 170 metres

Henrik Stenson (Sweden)
Winner of the 2009 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, Florida, the 2007 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, the 2007 Dubai Desert Classic and the 2006 Commercialbank Qatar Masters. Member of European Ryder Cup teams in 2006 and 2008.

It’s a cute little par three. I like the shorter par threes and I think most of the really good par threes around the world are a seven-to-nine iron. I’m not too keen on these three iron par threes. This is one of them. The tough thing is to get close to the back pins. There’s always a pin placed back-right. Other than that you’ve just got your wind direction right and hit a good shot. There’s nothing more to it really.

It would take quite a big miss for any of us to hit it in the water; obviously the bunkers are in play, especially for the back pins. Just as they always put some pins at the back, for sure they will put some pins close to the hump at the front of the green. Especially if it’s playing downhill, that makes it a bit harder to stop the ball. You’ve got to land it just precisely at the front and that little hump can make it tricky as well. 

The mistake you don’t want to make: You would leave yourself a tricky up and down if you go over the back. So get your yardage control, hit a good shot and you should be fine. The worst mistake would be the chunk in the water though. I’ll leave that one for you to make (laughs). 

Ian Poulter in the fairway at Abu Dhabi Golf Club

Thanks again to Tim Maitland for this great interview with European Tour Golfers for the 2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship!

2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Holes 1-6
2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Holes 13-18

photo credits: Getty Images/Tim Maitland

How to negotiate holes 13-18 of the Abu Dhabi Golf Club will be seen on Golf for Beginners blog later this week.

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