If you’re driving down to Abu Dhabi to watch Thomas Pieters attempt to defend his maiden Rolex Series title this week, you may just see the big Belgian more than once.
Pieters, who will be targeting back-to-back wins at the immaculate Yas Links on Yas Island, has been made the centre of attention this in the captial with giant billboards dotted around the city to celebrate his triumph last season.
“They definitely remind me that I’ve won here, my face is on every building,” said Pieters.
“I’ve never had that before. It’s such a strange feeling. But playing the back nine yesterday was kind of special. It was my first Rolex Series, and to kind of relive those shots with my caddie yesterday was, I’m not going to say emotional but was very special.”
Pieters will be joined at Yas Links by 18 of his fellow Hero Cup competitors, which took place at Abu Dhabi Golf Club last week, including 2021 winner Tyrrell Hatton and tournament debutant Seamus Power.
The Irishman may not be a famrilar face on the European circuit but comes into the tournament as the leader on the PGA Tour’s FedExCup after winning the Butterfield Bermuda Championship in October last year.
“If it’s not the best conditioned course I’ve ever seen it’s definitely close,” said Power on his first trip to Yas Links. “It’s a beautiful setting. My first time on Yas Island. I didn’t realise what I was coming to. It’s gorgeous. That whole setup is top-notch. It’s been great.
“It’s so different, because it looks different, but it plays like a links course to me. It’s much greener. We play in the summer when courses are running as fast as this one. It’s burned out fairways like we saw a couple summers ago at Carnoustie and we had fairways running forever. These fairways are green and in perfect condition and running fast. It’s unusual because visually it looks a little different.
This week marks the second time the event has been held on Yas Island, after 2022 heralded a new chapter for the tournament which highlights Abu Dhabi as an international sports hub with the season ending F1 Championship and Ultimate Fighting Championship also taking residency at the world-class venue.
The DP World Tour has further strengthened its commitment to environmental responsibility by announcing that all five of its Rolex Series tournaments in 2023 will be carbon neutral and will adopt a consistent and highly credible approach to carbon reduction and climate mitigation.