American Bryson DeChambeau will return to Abu Dhabi this week

Paris (AFP) - Brooks Koepka will be one of six Americans playing in Abu Dhabi this week as the European Tour starts its Gulf swing, after Cameron Smith’s breakthrough Sunday win on the PGA Tour.

Here, AFP Sport looks at three talking points in golf this week:

American stars set for Middle East

Three leading American players, including world number one Koepka, will play in this week’s Abu Dhabi Championship despite political tensions following the United States’ killing of top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.

Four-time major champion Koepka will also compete in the controversial Saudi International later this month, alongside fellow top-20 players Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Tony Finau.

World number seven Patrick Cantlay and the 14th-ranked Bryson DeChambeau will also feature in one of the strongest fields of the season so far in the United Arab Emirates.

There are six Americans in the field in total.

Reigning Abu Dhabi champion Shane Lowry showed strong form by finishing second in the Hong Kong Open on Sunday as he looks to build on his successful 2019 campaign which featured his British Open triumph.

Armitage puts days ‘living off credit cards’ behind him

England’s Marcus Armitage claimed a third-place finish at the South African Open to pocket prize money five times the total amount he earned on the second-tier Challenge Tour last season.

Armitage, who gained his European Tour card at Qualifying School, was just one shot off Louis Oosthuizen’s lead heading into the final round.

He could have been forgiven for having bad memories after collapsing to a Sunday 83 when in a similar position at the Alfred Dunhill Championship last month.

But Armitage had laughed off that “bad day” in a video posted on social media, stressing that he “just loves” being on the Tour, and he was rock solid on Sunday to put those memories behind him.

Armitage said he was playing off scratch without ever having had any lessons in a blog post on the European Tour website and that last year he was on the Challenge Tour “playing and living off credit cards”.

A brilliant nine-under-par 62 in the third round catapulted him into contention in Johannesburg, before a solid fourth-round 69 secured solo third, five strokes behind winner Branden Grace, and a place at the British Open.

“Where I was a few months ago, I was off the cliff,” he told europeantour.com.

“I’ve turned it around. A few people have given me a few keys to change my life and that’s proof you can do it, you can do it in months. I’m a product of the hard work I’ve put in.”

Australian Smith dedicates win to bushfire victims

Smith won the Sony Open in a playoff

Smith, whose uncle lost his home in the bushfires devastating Australia, dedicated his maiden individual PGA Tour victory to his compatriots back home.

The 26-year-old edged out Brendan Steele in a play-off to win the Sony Open in Hawaii on Sunday.

“I realise Australia is doing it tough right now and the focus is probably not on my golf for good reason. But hopefully it gave a few people reason to smile for a moment or two,” Smith said.

“Uncle Warren drove back to his place the other day and what he found was quite devastating. I kind of saw the photos and the only thing he had left was a little shed that him and his son built a few months back.

“We’re a tight-knit family and it kind of hit everyone pretty hard. It’s good to do something good, and hopefully puts a smile on their face.”

Rankings

World top 20

1. Brooks Koepka (USA) 10.28 average points

2. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 9.05

3. Jon Rahm (ESP) 7.98

4. Justin Thomas (USA) 7.84

5. Dustin Johnson (USA) 6.79

6. Patrick Cantlay (USA) 6.39

7. Tiger Woods (USA) 6.36

8. Xander Schauffele (USA) 6.07

9. Justin Rose (ENG) 5.86

10. Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 5.43

11. Webb Simpson (USA) 5.17 (+1)

12. Patrick Reed (USA) 4.89 (-1)

13. Adam Scott (AUS) 4.71

14. Gary Woodland (USA) 4.58

15. Tony Finau (USA) 4.51 (+1)

16. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 4.48 (-1)

17. Paul Casey (ENG) 4.40

18. Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 4.39 (+2)

19. Shane Lowry (IRL) 4.39

20. Francesco Molinari (ITA) 4.36 (-2)