Round Up: Scots face tough task in Abu Dhabi HSBC qualifier

Tom Buchanan, the 2018 winner, is among four Scots in the line up for Sunday's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship shoot-out at Yas Links
Tom Buchanan, the 2018 winner, is among four Scots in the line up for Sunday's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship shoot-out at Yas Links
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Four Scottish professionals are set to face stiff competition in their bid to secure a spot in the star-studded Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the European Tour next week.

Scott Henry, Tom Buchanan, Jackson Bell and David Gray have all entered Sunday’s 18-hole shoot-out at Yas Links for one spot in the Rolex Series event at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Buchanan, the former Duddingston assistant pro who is now based at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club, is bidding to repeat his success in the same event two years ago.

On that occasion, however, it was only for UAE PGA professionals whereas this year’s qualifier for an event that is set to feature world No 1 Brooks Koepka is an open affair.

As a result, the field is much stronger, with the hopefuls also including Frenchman Gary Stal, who pipped Rory McIlroy by a shot to win the 2015 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Others in field include former BMW PGA champion Simon Khan, as well as two other ex-European Tour card holders in Romain Wattel and Steve Webster.

Englishman Matthew Jordan, who won the St Andrews Links Trophy before turning professional, is also in the line up along with Cormac Sharvin, a member of GB&I’s Walker Cup-winning team at Lytham in 2015.

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Norwegian Viktor Hovland, one of the talented youngsters on Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup radar, has secured a second invitation for the European Tour’s upcoming Middle East Swing.

The 22-year-old has been confirmed for a first appearance in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic later this month, having already committed to playing in next week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’ve spent the last few years playing mostly in America, so I’m excited to have the opportunity to come to Dubai,” said Hovland, who tied for 11th on his European Tour debut in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last September.

“One of the great things since turning professional has been playing so many events and courses that I have watched growing up as a kid and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic is no different.

“There have been so many iconic moments there and I can’t think of a better place to kickstart 2020 than at Emirates GC in a couple of weeks.”

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This week’s South African Open, the first event of the new decade on the European Tour, also has three spots up for grabs in the 149th Open Championship.

The tournament at Randpark is part of the R&A’s Qualifying Series for next July’s Claret Jug event at Royal St George’s.

The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and ties on Sunday who are not already exempt will earn places in The Open.

Former winner Louis Oosthuizen is among those in the field already exempt, with the others being Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Justin Harding, Erik van Rooyen and Shaun Norris.

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World No 1 Brooks Koepka has pipped second-ranked Rory McIlroy in the Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year poll.

Koepka, who lost out to McIlroy in the PGA equivalent, which is a player vote, secured 44 per cent of the votes on this occasion compared to 36 per cent for McIlroy.

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko, who won two majors in 2019, and Scott McCarron claimed the Female and Senior Player of the Year prizes.

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Scotland’s Connor McKinney made a promising start in the Australian Masters of the Amateurs Championship at The Victoria Golf Club.

McKinney, who is based in Australia, carded a four-under-par 68 to sit just two shots off the lead in joint-fifth.

England’s Ben Schmidt, who narrowly missed out on a Walker Cup spot last year following a sparkling run of form, shot a 66 to set the pace along with American pair Sahith Theegala and Quade Cummins.

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The GolfCatcher PGA EuroPro Tour 2020 season will be concluded in Bulgaria.

In a first for the circuit, its Tour Championship will be hosted over four days at Black Sea Rama Golf & Villas resort and Lighthouse Golf & Spa resort from 29 September to 2 October.

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