PRESIDENTS Cup rivals Patrick Cantlay and Haotong Li have become the latest international stars to confirm their appearance at next week’s 15th Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Patrick Cantlay, a former World No. 1 ranked amateur, has soared into the World’s Top 10, after two high-profile victories in 2018 and 2019.
Cantlay, who made his Presidents Cup debut in the USA’s victory at Royal Melbourne last month, holds the accolade of being the first player since Tiger Woods to reach the Tour Championship in 12 or fewer events.
The former UCLA star, who hails from Long Beach in Los Angeles, will be eager to prove his prowess at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
The Californian will line-up against proven champions including World No. 1 Brooks Koepka – who will be aiming for a third USPGA title in a row in May – and two-time winner Tommy Fleetwood.
Defending champion Shane Lowry, who went on to claim the Claret Jug at last summer’s Open after victory in Abu Dhabi, returns to the United Arab Emirates looking to become the third player to win the distinctive Falcon Trophy two years in a row after Fleetwood (2018) and Martin Kaymer (2011).
The only American winner in the event’s history was Rickie Fowler, who claimed the Falcon Trophy in 2016.
Dustin Johnson was runner-up to Fleetwood a year later, while Phil Mickelson missed out by a stroke finishing alongside Rory McIlroy when Spaniard Pablo Larrabazal was crowned champion in 2014.
Haotong Li will be making his third consecutive appearance at the tournament.
The Chinese star will be determined to put in an improved display at the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, having missed the cut in his last two visits to the prestigious Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Li, the first male Chinese golfer to break into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings, will be hoping to become the first player from China to lift the iconic Falcon Trophy.
He made his debut for Ernie Els’ Internationals, Down Under, in December, as the Americans snatched victory late on in the Sunday singles.
Patrick Cantlay, who finished fourth in the Senty Tournament of Champions, in Hawaii, on Sunday, said: “I’m very excited to play for the first time in Abu Dhabi.
“I’ve heard great things about the course, the fans and the experience as a whole,” added the current world No. 7.
“With a such a strong field this year, I’m looking forward to competing against some of the best players in the world and to try and take home the Falcon Trophy.”
Li, who has two European Tour wins under his belt including the 2018 Omega Dubia Desert Classic, said: “The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is a tournament I love playing in.
“It is a great way to kick-off the New Year and, this year I’m looking to make it to the weekend and get myself in a position to make a run come Sunday afternoon.
“Even though we’ve only just finished the season in Australia, I can’t wait to see everyone again in January and get started on 2020 in Abu Dhabi.”
H E Aref Al Awani, general Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: “Patrick is one of the most talented young players on Tour today, and we are delighted to welcome him to Abu Dhabi for the first time.
“Haotong is also an outstanding player and is an amazing ambassador for Chinese golf. They were both key players at the Presidents Cup and I am sure they will be equally as competitive next week.”
HSBC UAE chief executive Abdulfattah Sharaf said: “The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is one of golf’s premium tournaments with an unwavering ability to attract the best players from around the globe.
“The event plays a vital role in shaping the future of golf in the region and inspiring the next generation of world greats.
“We are thrilled to welcome Patrick Cantlay to the UAE for the first time.
“Haotong Li is a graduate of our CGA-HSBC China Junior Golf Program and has been an inspiration to many Chinese junior golfers – we are delighted to see him make his return to Abu Dhabi.”
•Next week’s HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, which takes place from January 16-19, is the first of eight Rolex Series events on the European Tour’s 2020 schedule.
To see the confirmed entry list click here.