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Stephen Gallacher: Hero Cup is going to be thrilling spectacle – and I’ll have an up-close view of it all

Bob MacIntyre is among those hoping to impress at the Hero Cup
Bob MacIntyre is among those hoping to impress at the Hero Cup

The Hero Cup is finally here and as we get closer to the match between Continental Europe and Great Britain and Ireland, I have to admit I’m finding this one very tough to call.

I expect it to be very close but clearly, the guys who have been playing regularly are the ones to look out for.

Europe have Australian Open winner Adrian Meronk and Mauritius Open champion Antoine Rozner in their ranks while Alex Noren has been playing regularly in the United States.

For Great Britain and Ireland there is Seamus Power, who is number one in the FedEx Cup rankings after seven events while Tommy Fleetwood has also been playing regularly.

Ryder Cup looms large in Abu Dhabi

I’ve mentioned in recent columns how important this is for Team Europe captain Luke Donald ahead of the Ryder Cup in September and I can assure you he and his team have been taking this very seriously indeed.

Edoardo Molinari, Nicolas Colsaerts and Thomas Bjorn are here while Jose Maria Olazabal was drafted in on Tuesday to speak to the players too.

Both teams in Abu Dhabi have been mixing together but once there are points at stake tomorrow I expect them to be firmly in their respective camps.

There’s bragging rights at stake between the two teams this week but ultimately as far as Luke is concerned this is all about assessing players ahead of the Ryder Cup match in September.

He has wasted little time in stamping his authority on this event, asking for two sessions of foursomes matches to be played between the teams on Saturday.

The reason for that is simple.

It allows him the chance to look at other potential partnerships and just take a longer look at the guys taking part in a competitive environment.

Ultimately, that’s what this week is all about. Experimentation and food for thought.

Vital week for Luke Donald

Luke Donald will have his eyes on several young players at this week’s Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi.

The Ryder Cup is an intense, unique event to take part in. Going from being rivals all year to team-mates and representing your continent against the Americans is an experience which is hard to put into words.

Having that extra layer of competitiveness, which this week will give the players, is exactly what Luke and his vice-captains want.

As for the players themselves – all they can do is play well and plant a seed in the captain’s mind for later in the season.

For those who don’t qualify automatically, three good days here might just be enough to convince Luke to use one of his captain’s picks to put them in his team for Rome nearer the time.

I’m back on the golf course – only this time I’m behind the mic

A new year brings a new career – of sorts – for me.

I have the honour of being part of the commentary team at Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the Hero Cup in what will be my television debut.

I’ve done some bits and pieces before for BBC Radio 5 Live but this will be the first TV broadcast.

It was all a little surreal sitting have a chat with Sam Torrance and Wayne ‘Radar’ Riley, two of my broadcast colleagues, about the event but now we’re on the eve of the match I’m excited to see how it unfolds.

I’ll have the task of being inside the ropes and talking the viewers through the shot selection and what the players are trying to do on the course while my colleagues give their views inside the booth.

I took a walk around the course yesterday during the practice session and it was nice to catch up with some of the boys who I haven’t seen for a couple of months.

But I know the mood will change for all of us when the first ball is hit tomorrow.

For the players, the competitive juices will kick in. For me, I’ll be firmly out of my comfort zone but I’m looking forward to taking on a new challenge.

It’s nice to still be on the course and if I am able to juggle the seniors tour with some commentary duties in the years ahead then I’ll be delighted.

But my aim this year is to regain my tour card and I’m staying out in Abu Dhabi after this week’s event to practise.

I’m also hoping I can earn an invite to the Abu Dhabi Championship next week but I’m playing a waiting game on that one.

Rahm delivers yet again

Is Jon Rahm the best golfer in the world right now as he claims?

I don’t know about that but he is certainly in the top two along with Rory McIlroy.

His stunning victory at the PGA Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Sunday was incredible.

To come from seven back to win is fantastic but to do so by shooting a 10 under par final round is fairytale stuff.

That’s three wins from the last five events too for anyone not keeping count.

It will be interesting to see how Collin Morikawa responds to letting his big lead slip.

We tend to focus on the great play by the champion in these circumstances but will it haunt Morikawa? Time will tell.

Something tells me he will brush it off and come back strongly much in the same way as Rory did in putting a disappointing final round at the Open in the summer behind him to top the rankings on the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour.