Which European Tour players are in for a big 2019 ahead of the season-opener in Abu Dhabi? By Lewis Blain
Players To Watch On The European Tour In 2019
The European Tour is back with a bang next week as the Rolex Series Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship gets 2019 underway.
Back-to-back winner of this tournament, Tommy Fleetwood, is also in the field as he looks to make it three in a row.
There are a handful of new Challenge Tour graduates that are in the field for the first time as well as a number of European Tour stalwarts that are looking to have a big 2019.
Here are a few to look out for on the European Tour this year:
Matt Wallace's meteoric rise on the European Tour has been nothing short of incredible. The 28-year-old has won four times since 2017 and narrowly missed out on making the Ryder Cup squad. He ended 2018 with four straight top-20 finishes including a tie for second at the DP World Tour Championship. Wallace has developed an extraordinary knack of being able to close out events, even when so much is on the line. He's eligible for all four majors as well as the WGCs this year. You can expect him to win more on the European Tour and could well mix it with the elite on the PGA Tour.
It was around this time last year that Haotong Li remarkably held off four-time major winner Rory McIlroy at the Dubai Desert Classic to win his second European Tour title. He would go on to miss just five cuts all year and ended the season strongly with form of T5-T9-T11-2 (playoff loss)-T5, all five events were particularly strong from the Alfred Dunhill Links to WGC-HSBC Champions. At only 23-years of age, Li has so much more to bring to the tour in 2019.
The Austrian had a quiet year by his standards but that was through no fault of his own. A wrist injury at the Volvo China Open kept him out of action for 31 weeks. He missed the first two cuts on his return but don't forget about him. He has won four times on the European Tour with his most recent victory being a stunning playoff win over Tommy Fleetwood at the Shenzhen International in 2017.
Wiesberger will be looking to replicate this man's comeback after the 2016 Masters champion finally won again. The 31-year-old plunged to 462nd in the world rankings as a series of injuries stopped him from playing at his best. Willett won the year's final tournament and had been playing some superb golf in parts towards the end of the year. We could see this man back to his best this year.
From one Englishman to another, Aaron Rai also ended his year in victory. The Hong Kong Open gave the Wolverhampton-born 23-year-old his first European Tour title after three huge Challenge Tour wins in 2017. Rai has been a regular on Tour now since August of that year after becoming one of only 12 golfers to gain automatic promotion with three wins. He is not yet eligible for any of the majors so expect him to play well enough to break in to at least one of them. Rai would do very well at The Open Championship.
Thomas Detry should follow his close friend and countryman Thomas Pieters in becoming a winner on the European Tour in 2019. The pair won the World Cup of Golf back in November with a score of 23-under-par. Detry has been pretty consistent on Tour since his induction in 2016. As an amateur he ranked inside the top-10 while studying at the University of Illnois. Five top-10s and only seven missed cuts last year is enough to draw confidence from. A win is surely not far off for the Belgian.
Erik Van Rooyen
He is one of the best ball strikers on the European Tour already, having only earned a card as recently as 2018. His best finish came at the Irish Open where he led going into the final day by four strokes. A poor final round meant he had to settle for a T4. He finished in the top 20 at his first Major Championship too. Van Rooyen could be next in line to add to the impressive list of champions from the country of South Africa.
Marcus Kinhult is the real deal. He secured two top-12 finishes in two Rolex Series events in 2018 while also claiming fourth at the Portugal Masters and a 3rd at the Qatar Masters. Kinhult hit the headlines in 2015 for leading the Nordea Masters as an 18-year-old amateur at the half-way stage. He is on the cusp of entering the world's top 150. Also, not many can say they have Olympic Silver and Gold Medals (coming at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games). We should see the 22-year-old in contention much more in 2019.
Joachim B. Hansen
Another talent from Scandinavia is Joachim B. Hansen. Last year, he 28-year-old became the first Dane to win the Challenge Tour rankings since Thomas Bjorn in 1995. In 19 starts he won two titles, came runner-up three times and made the top-10 on four more occasions. Hansen led the Scottish Open in 2013 but made a quadruple-bogey on his 2nd hole in the final round. If he could follow in Bjorn's footsteps with 15 European Tour victories then it would be a more than decent career.
Adri Arnaus has had a very quick route to the European Tour having only turned pro less than two years ago. He made 14 top-10 finishes on the Challenge Tour before he won the season-ending Grand Final. He has since played one event on the PGA Tour where he missed the cut and two events on the European Tour, finishing in a tie for ninth at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. Will he follow in the footsteps of his fellow countrymen Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm and become yet another Spanish winner on Tour?
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