Rory McIlroy returns to action in Abu Dhabi in January
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 22/11/17 1:55pm
Rory McIlroy will begin his 2018 campaign in another star-studded field at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January.
Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood returns to defend his title, but will face a tough challenge with the likes of world No 1 Dustin Johnson, McIlroy, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson all competing.
Paul Casey is also in the field as he looks to stake his claim for a first Ryder Cup appearance since 2008 having signalled his intention to rejoin the European Tour, while Matt Kuchar adds further weight to the strong international presence.
McIlroy is determined to get off to a fast start to the year after a winless 2017 season ravaged by injury, and it is a venue that has suited him in the past as he has two runner-up finishes and a tie for third in his last three appearances.
"I am looking for a strong start in 2018 and Abu Dhabi is the perfect place to open my season's campaign," said McIlroy, who missed the tournament last season after suffering a rib joint injury in South Africa in his first outing of 2017.
"Having come really close here on more than one occasion, I will be completely focused on trying to win the coveted Falcon Trophy and getting myself back into the winners' circle - that would be a real confidence boost to start the New Year."
Johnson has been on top of the world rankings since his purple patch of form early this year, when he won three straight tournaments before his bid for a fourth at the Masters was scuppered by a back injury he sustained on the eve of the first major of the year.
"Abu Dhabi is great, it's a fun course to play and I felt I played really well during my first appearance there, aside from my first day troubles with the putter," said Johnson, who was joint runner-up to Fleetwood last season.
"I hope to be in contention again this year and hopefully finish one spot better than in 2017. Aside from the majors and the weeks immediately following my injury, it has been a really good year for me, having won four times. Hopefully Abu Dhabi will serve as the perfect springboard for me in 2018."
Casey, meanwhile, won in Abu Dhabi in 2007 and 2009 and the Englishman is hoping to build on an encouraging year on the PGA Tour, recording eight top-10 finishes since his sixth place at the Masters in April lifting him to 14th in the world rankings.
He said: "Abu Dhabi is an incredibly special place for me, having won the Championship twice. After a strong start to the season so far, I'm confident heading into the Championship and know what it takes to get the job done. It would be great if I could equal Martin Kaymer's record there."
Rose added: "Starting 2018 off in Abu Dhabi is something many of the players on tour look forward to. I've had a strong end to 2017 and I'll be hoping to carry on that momentum as I arrive in the capital once again.
"It's a really enjoyable yet testing course which gives us players a challenge each round, and I'm sure I'm not the only one looking to take the Falcon Trophy off Tommy this year."