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Ryder Cup: Who can make early push for Team Europe qualification at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship?

Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Seamus Power and Thomas Pieters all feature in Abu Dhabi, where extra Ryder Cup qualification points are on offer; watch live on Thursday from 3.30am on Sky Sports Golf

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Sky Sports' Nick Dougherty and Andrew Coltart look ahead to a busy year of golf, starting with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the DP World Tour

The Rolex Series calendar kicks off this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, live on Sky Sports, where plenty of players will be hoping to make an early push for Ryder Cup qualification.

Qualification for Team Europe began at the BMW PGA Championship - won by Shane Lowry - with the year-long campaign running until this September, while Rolex Series events offer at least double the amount of Ryder Cup qualification points than a regular DP World Tour event.

The leading three players on the European Points List will be automatic qualifiers for Team Europe, along with the leading three on the World Points List, with Luke Donald then having six captain's picks to complete his line-up for September's contest at Marco Simone GC in Rome.

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Paul Mcginley says the psychology of being within a team in an otherwise individual sport is extremely important for Ryder Cup preparation

All four of the highest European players in the world rankings - Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland - sit out this week's event at Yas Links Abu Dhabi, with the absent quartet giving others the chance to make big strides in the Ryder Cup qualification campaign.

Two-time Abu Dhabi champion Tommy Fleetwood is among those in the field, having served as a playing captain for Great Britain and Ireland last week in their Hero Cup loss to Continental Europe, with the Englishman expecting many of last week's field to impress.

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Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald explains why the return of the Hero Cup will help with Ryder Cup preparations

"In a Ryder Cup year, a big part is having a big start to the year and the following week is a good way of getting right back into it," Fleetwood said. "It's good to get into that competitive spirit and that competitive mindset and see what's good and see what things we might be able to improve on coming into this week.

"I remember playing the EurAsia Cup in 2018, and it was a good week to start the season going into a competitive week. Don't be surprised to see the guys that were there last week on the top of the leaderboard."

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Take a look back at the best of the action from the final day of the inaugural Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi

There are 19 members from last week's Hero Cup teams teeing it up this week, including 2021 winner Tyrrell Hatton and debutant Seamus Power, while defending champion Thomas Pieters returns as he looks to replicate last year's one-shot victory.

"They definitely remind me that I've won here. My face is on every building," Pieters said on Wednesday. "I've never had that before. It's such a strange feeling.

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"But playing the back nine yesterday was kind of special. It was my first Rolex Series [win] and to kind of relive those shots with my caddie yesterday was, I'm not going to say emotional, but was very special.

"I definitely want to be in the top 50 [in the world. I want to get as high as possible because that's where you're going to win trophies. You're not going to get to number eight or seventh in the world without winning trophies."

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Nick Dougherty and Andrew Coltart review the best of the action from an eventful final round at the 2022 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Team Europe as it stands

Rahm leads the European Points List after following his runner-up finish at Wentworth in September by winning the Open de Espana and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, with world No 1 McIlroy and Lowry occupying the next two spots.

Hovland, Alex Noren and Andalucia Masters winner Adrian Otaegui - part of the breakaway LIV golf circuit - are the next three players on the World Points List, with Fleetwood, Power, Fitzpatrick and Robert MacIntyre all inside the top 10.

Rasmus Hojgaard and Jordan Smith are inside the top 10 on the European Points List, although the projected standings will change significantly before Team Europe take on Team USA in Rome on September 29-October 1.

Watch the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins on Thursday with Featured Groups from 3.30am on Sky Sports Golf.

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