“First time I’ve been inside the top five. It’s nice to be up there. The ultimate goal this year is to go win a major and this is a big step in the right direction for sure.” Rickie Fowler
Irish golfer Rory McIlroy lucked out again this year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championships held over the last four days at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Finishing in the runner-up position for the last four years it looked like 2016 might be McIlroy’s year but he ended up finishing in joint third place while American Rickie Fowler lifted the falcon trophy, moving to fourth place in the world rankings to boot, his highest position to date.
Another great event here in the capital, four consecutive days of top class golf with the world’s best players battling it out on the National course. The crowds were out in force to see world number one Jordan Spieth, who was making his Middle East debut playing alongside McIlroy, Fowler, Henrik Stenson and three-time Abu Dhabi champion Martin Kaymer as well as other big names from the European Tour. Amateur golfer Bryson DeChambeau led the field at one point giving the professionals a run for their money.
Even with two days of thick morning fog delaying play and threatening the whole event everything eventually went to plan and finished on Sunday as scheduled. It wasn’t only Fowler’s game that attracted attention, his trendy non-conformist high-top puma golf shoes and gathered cuff trousers were a matter of interest to the TV commentators, themselves old school professional golfers.
We enjoyed the hospitality of the HSBC premier bar on the seventeenth green, a lively affair that attracted plenty of expats over the weekend, there were even queues to get in at one point, those holding the ‘Quiet Please’ signs had their work cut out to silence the noise! Heavily doused in HSBC red, the fan village had a new attraction in the form of a beach club complete with a shallow pool and traditional style deckchairs. Second son, who can never resist a football, had a go at the football and rugby challenges. A cultural area was set up in part of the village with a camel, falcons and seating areas designed like a traditional majlis.
Several new events took place off the course this year to celebrate the tournament. Michelin star British chef Tom Sellers, owner of Restaurant Story located at Tower Bridge in London, designed the ‘Golf Story’ a menu of British dishes with a regional touch. Golf Story was not only available just for vip’s but also in the HSBC village throughout the event, offering favourites such as tomato soup and strawberries and cream, both of which we sampled. Sellers introduced his specially devised menu of golf-themed classics at a pre-tournament culinary event held at the golf club assisted by top British golfers Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter along with HSBC sporting ambassador and former British number one tennis player, Tim Henman.
The other half was lucky enough to be invited along to this event but didn’t take any photos whatsoever, doh! Once a keen golfer, he was too busy meeting the golfers and socialising to whip out his phone and take some blog snaps, epic fail Mr B! The evening focused not only on the food but also Sellars back story from being a sixteen-year-old school dropout to protegee of chef Tom Aitkens. Through shear hard work and determination Sellers realised his dream, opening Restaurant Story in April 2013, gaining a coveted michelin star only five months later. The restaurant now has a waiting list spanning many months.
Located on the periphery of the course, The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa held three events back-to-back to celebrate the tournament this year. The initial event saw the eighteen piece Abu Dhabi Big Band entertaining the audience with live swing music on the hotel’s lawn in a night filled with classics from the Big band era, Heels on the Grass was a ladies catwalk show and fashion event held on the Friday evening. The other half attended the finale event, a black-tie Gala dinner with a champagne reception followed by a four-course dinner designed by Dutch Michelin star chef and TV personality Ron Blaauw. Guess what, he didn’t take any photos again but I will let him off on this occasion as he won a rather fabulous prize in the raffle. Blaauw, owner of self-entitled restaurant in Amsterdam created an elaborate dinner paired with fine wines served on the lawn alongside entertainment in the form of dancers and drummers.
The venue may have been the same, the weather was predictably bright and sunny for the duration (except the foggy mornings), the HSBC hospitality was excellent again this year and the golfing action enjoyable, another fantastic event enjoyed by all.
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2016. All rights reserved. The Westin event photos used courtesy of www.westinabudhabigolfresort.com
Read more about Golf in Abu Dhabi here Beginner to Winner, HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf 2014 Championships in Pictures, Visitors, Food, More Food and Some Golf and In Pictures: Expect The Unexpected HSBC Golf Championships