With just one event left in the 2017 Race to Dubai five players are in contention to be crowned this season’s Graduate of the Year.
The lucrative season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai boasts a prize fund of $8,000,000, meaning all of Dylan Frittelli, Jordan Smith, Ryan Fox, Alexander Björk and Matthieu Pavon are in with a chance of becoming the Challenge Tour’s best performer on the European Tour this term.
Here we recap the top five’s journey from Oman to Dubai:
What a year it has been for Frittelli.
The South African came into his rookie campaign on the European Tour in fine form after an outstanding 2016 on the Challenge Tour, which saw him win once and rack up nine top ten finishes – the most by any player that season.
Frittelli took that consistency into 2017, making five consecutive cuts from the end of January before arriving in China – where he truly kick-started his European Tour career.
A share of fifth place at the Shenzhen International was followed by Frittelli coming agonisingly close to lifting his first European Tour title the following week – he lost out to Alexander Levy in a play-off at the Volvo China Open.
But the 27 year old would not have to wait long for victory. After an outstanding final day 67 he soared up the leaderboard to clinch the Lyoness Open powered by Organic title, and in doing so became the first member of the Class of 2016 to win on the European Tour.
Frittelli was also firmly in contention for a second title of 2017 at the Turkish Airlines Open, event six of the prestigious Rolex Series.
Another excellent closing round in Antalya – a seven under par 64 which included three chip-ins in four holes – almost put Frittelli into a second play-off of the season.
Despite Justin Rose making a birdie at the 18th to win by one, Frittelli still picked up the biggest pay cheque of his career by finishing in a share of second place.
As a result the Johannesburger sits in pole position with one event of 2017 left, 106,000 points clear of his nearest challenger Smith.
Also excelling during his debut season on Europe’s top tier was Smith.
The 2016 Road to Oman Rankings winner, who two seasons ago was competing on the satellite EuroPro Tour, quickly showed his class by going toe-to-toe with Rory McIlroy in the final group on Sunday at the BMW SA Open in January. Although he ultimately missed out on a play-off by one shot, a third-place finish was a sign of things to come.
His breakthrough win came in July at the Porsche European Open, where Smith clinched a maiden European Tour title in dramatic fashion, overcoming Alexander Levy in a play-off to win in Germany.
A top ten finish in his first Major appearance at the US PGA Championship was another highlight in an excellent rookie campaign for the 25 year old, who will be hungry to add another accolade to his ever-growing trophy cabinet by claiming the Graduate of the Year award this week.
Fox showed his talent over two seasons on the Challenge Tour. After finishing just outside the top 15 in 2015, the big-hitting Kiwi was outstanding in 2016 when he won once and finished inside the top five on five further occasions in his 13 starts that season.
After graduating in fourth place in the Rankings, the 30 year old immediately found himself at the top end of world golf, playing with Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson in his first two months as a European Tour member.
This season Fox has also shown that he is comfortable competing against the game’s elite by thriving in the Rolex Series.
After claiming a share of sixth place in France before back-to-back top-five finishes in Ireland and Scotland Fox qualified for the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
Fox, who also teed it up at the US PGA Championship this season, surpassed one million points at last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player and still has an outside chance of catching Frittelli at the top of the Rankings.
Another player who has impressed during his rookie season on the European Tour has been Sweden’s Björk, so much so that Richie Ramsay recently said he was ‘the best player yet to win on Tour’ this season.
The 27 year old was firmly in contention for a maiden European Tour title at the HNA Open de France, but after taking on Tommy Fleetwood in a final-day battle he eventually finished in a share of third.
Having had that experience of going toe-to-toe with the Race to Dubai Number One, Björk has shown he can hold his own on golf’s greatest stage and will be well fancied in Dubai this week.
Pavon, like Björk and Smith, has made the transition from satellite tour star to promising European Tour player this season.
The Frenchman, who two seasons ago was plying his trade on the Alps Tour, catapulted himself into the golfing spotlight this season by carding a sublime final round of 66 at Dundonald Links to finish in third place at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
The 25 year old needs to win this week in order to overtake Frittelli and claim the Graduate of the Year award but anything can happen in Dubai.