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Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: LIV golfers strengthen field but bring friction to Rolex Series event

Ian Poulter is among the LIV Golf members in action on the DP World Tour this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the first Rolex Series event of the year; watch throughout the week live on Sky Sports Golf

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Sky Sports' Nick Dougherty and Andrew Coltart discuss the issue of LIV players competing on the DP World Tour this week and the controversy it has caused

Former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart discusses a busy start to the DP World Tour season and gives his verdict on Ian Poulter's comments about potentially snubbing any possible future appearance for Team Europe.

This a massive fortnight for the DP World Tour to start the new year, with back-to-back Rolex Series events offering huge points - almost treble a regular-season event.

These two events are a great opportunity to really get your season off to a cracking start and possibly get one foot in the door for the Ryder Cup later this year, so these really after massive tournaments.

You might not have the superstars here like Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, but there's no doubt we still have plenty of big names and a huge amount of strength in depth.

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

The Hero Cup last week produced a lot of strong performances and there are plenty of players who can bring a lot of confidence from that into the next couple of weeks. Some will have more of a point to prove than others, but there's plenty of new talent on the DP World Tour to watch out for.

LIV members involved in Abu Dhabi

Let's not forget that these LIV players don't lose their record because of what they've decided to move across to - their record stays intact and certainly has to be respected.

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Dame Laura Davies has welcomed the decision to allow golfers who joined LIV Golf to play at The Masters in 2023

I think they're still people that I would look forward to watching and they still have an incredible golf game, so these players do add to the level of the field.

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Having said that, some are currently in the process of suing their fellow members, so it's difficult for others not to take that with anything other than a little bit of animosity. It's very, very tricky.

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You can see one or two of the LIV golfers playing together and practising side by side, but there's a void and there's a gap between the regular members and some of the players who have decided to take their game to another arena.

It's their choice, they've gone ahead and done that, so they've got to bear the consequences coming their way. As a result of that, there's a bit of friction out there on the practice ground and out there on the links.

Image: Ian Poulter is among the LIV golfers in action at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week

I can't believe that these players took that jump and thought that everything was going to pan out the way they wanted - there had to be consequences to it and as a result of that they're now finding themselves in a sticky situation.

Should Poulter be in Ryder Cup consideration?

I appreciate that Ian Poulter was asked that question by the media but what I don't like is how a lot of it has been aired in public, with petty little grievances on social media involving those players.

If those LIV players kept that out of the public domain then I think things would be in a slightly better position. You can tell there's that frustration out there - you can read between the lines there and the position he finds himself in is fairly fragile.

Whatever happens, it will be Poulter's golf game that has to get him there. Is he playing well enough to make that team? I don't know whether he is right now. Regardless, I think we're at a particular time where there's maybe a case for the next generation instead.

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I think there's a great opportunity now to blood some of these younger players and get them out. They have no scar tissue, they have no Ryder Cup records to protect and have no fear in terms of the media and what their expectations are.

This is a terrific opportunity, especially when you bear in mind how heavily they were beaten over at Whistling Straits last time around.

Now is the time to focus on what the DP World Tour and their young stars have got to offer, so it's a tremendous opportunity for many of that group to go and earn their first cap.

Watch the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage continues Friday with Featured Groups from 3.30am on Sky Sports Golf, ahead of full coverage from 7.30am.

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