Josh Hill on Yas Links with Lee Westwood
Josh Hill on Yas Links with Lee Westwood Image Credit: Supplied

After what seems like a long wait, the big week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links Abu Dhabi is now upon us.

This is the first time I have played Yas Links for 10 days. We drove up this morning from Dubai: Dad, my caddie Pete Hartley and myself and, as we arrived at the club gates you could immediately see the difference. Tents, on and off course branding, directional signage, TV cranes and so much more: the DP World Tour is certainly in town.

We could all feel a real tournament buzz as we arrived in the car park and walked to the range. Players were all over the place, practising all areas of their games. There was Danny Willett, Padraig Harrington, Edoardo Molinari and too many to name.

I hit some balls on the range next to Harrington as a warm up rather than anything too technical, the wind was pretty strong around noon and died down near the end of the day, which made a difference to the playability of the golf course.

I am not sure how, but I left my 8 iron in my apartment in Dubai. I met with the Titleist guys on the range and within 30 minutes they had made up a new one matching the loft and lie of all my other clubs, so a big thank you to them - this is the service the pros get every week on tour, more than impressive.

I played an 18-hole practice round at 12.50pm with Lee Westwood and Bernd Wiesberger. They were both very welcoming and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations. We chatted about life in general, rather than serious golf talk. I was impressed that they were both zoned in to their games and it was if they were playing in a tournament.

I must compliment the condition of the course, it has changed over the last week or so with faster greens and consistent rough. This is one of the best conditioned courses I have ever played or even seen.

On Tuesday, I am playing my second official practice round with UAE national amateur Ahmad Skaik, so that will be fun as I know Ahmad well. We are not sure whether we will play nine or 18 holes, we will see how we feel.

Wednesday is Pro-Am day, and I will not be playing, so Tuesday is my final look at the course. I intend to hit some balls on Wednesday and not overdo it, I need to be fresh for the Thursday start.

We are staying on site at Yas Island and can walk to the golf club, which is ideal.

This is my third event playing on the DP World Tour, having played previously in 2020 in both Abu Dhabi and in Dubai. I remember catching myself celebrity watching during the last two events, whereas now I feel more relaxed, can focus on my game and, through qualifying at the Abu Dhabi Amateur Championship at Saadiyat Beach, I am here on merit.