ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Don’t be surprised if Justin Rose goes on to win the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Belief might just carry him into the winner’s circle.
Rose holds the 36-hole lead at 8 under after a second-round, 3-under 69. He leads by a shot over Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
The Englishman is the bookies’ favorite to take the title after the surprise exits of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods. British bookmaker William Hill lists him as a 7/4 favorite, with Olesen 6/1, Donaldson 7/1 and Fernandez-Castano 9/1.
It’s no surprise Rose is now the man to beat. The World No. 5 is the highest-ranked player left in the field. Rose has also proved in the recent past that he enjoys playing in this part of the world.
Rose signed off his 2012 European Tour season with a 10-under 62 just down the road in Dubai. He finished second in the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour’s season finale. He might have won the tournament if not for McIlroy’s five-birdie finish to take the title.
No wonder Rose has that intangible that could spell success come Sunday night.
“There’s a difference in how I feel about my game and how I trust my game,” Rose said. “I believe that any tournament I tee up in I can win.
“It’s another nice feeling. Often you tell yourself that, but believing is a different kettle of fish a lot of time.”
However, Rose hasn’t put all his golf balls in the Abu Dhabi shag bag. Far from it. He is part of a cadre of Englishmen, with Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, who should challenge for majors this year.
“I look at the big picture. If I live and die by this result, it gets in the way of the rest of the season. I’m looking to build and build,” said Rose. “I’m looking to get better and better as a player, and often you have to sometimes make mistakes to learn the appropriate lesson. Whatever comes out of this week, I will use to make it a better season.”
Olesen already looks like he’s having a better season than he did last year – and last year was impressive. The Dane missed out on the rookie of the year award in 2011 to England’s Tom Lewis. Olesen finished higher than Lewis on the money list, but lost out because the Englishman won that season’s Portugal Masters.
However, Olesen turned the tables last season, winning the Sicilian Open and finishing 15th on the European Order of Merit. He also finished the season inside the world top 50 to gain entry to the Masters. (He is currently 52nd.)
The Dane proved how far he has progressed by keeping a clean card in Round 2. His 3-under 69 included no blemishes. “I played really nice, especially with the round yesterday the way I finished with a bogey, so it’s nice to get a bogey‑free round today,” Olesen said.
Donaldson earned his first European Tour win last year, triumphing in the Irish Open. The Welshman has been steadily improving the last five years, with many European Tour aficionados expecting him to add another victory this year.
It could come as early as this week.
“I probably played better today in places than yesterday,” Donaldson said of his 2-under 70. “It was a solid day. It was tough out there but wasn’t as windy as yesterday, which made scoring slightly easier. I’m in a good position, and I’m happy.”
Fernandez-Castano is perhaps a bit of a surprise near the top of the leaderboard, given his putting problems in the last few years. However, the Spaniard fashioned a six-birdie, one-bogey 67 to get into contention.