Rory McIlroy will launch both his defence of this week’s DP World Tour Championship and bid for a fourth Race to Dubai title alongside in-form Alex Noren when play gets under way in Dubai on Thursday.
With Jumeirah Golf Estates – a European Tour Destination – set to host the season-ending finale for an eighth successive year, 60 of the world’s finest golfers are in the United Arab Emirates with the 2016 campaign set for a thrilling finale.
Four golfers can still be crowned European Number One come Sunday evening, including fourth placed McIlroy – Race to Dubai champion in 2012, 2014 and 2015 – with the Northern Irishman hitting the Earth Course at 12:30 in the company of a four-time winner in 2016, in Sweden’s Noren.
With all the pairings for the first round heading out in two balls in Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex order from the first tee, the final group will feature Race to Dubai leader and 2016 Open Champion Henrik Stenson with Masters Tournament winner Danny Willett from 12:40.
The 40 year old Swede – twice a victor in this event and Race to Dubai champion in 2013 – leads by almost 300,000 points over playing partner Willett but with a first prize of over 1.2 million Euros on offer this week it’s still very much anyone’s game.
Meanwhile, Dunhill Links winner Tyrrell Hatton is out in the third to last group alongside South Africa’s Branden Grace from 12:20, Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera Bello is out at 12:10 in the company of former Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen, while BMW PGA Champion Chris Wood joins Turkish Airlines Open winner Thorbjorn Olesen from 12:00.
With a share of the $5million Bonus Pool up for grabs for those finishing inside the top ten of The Race to Dubai at the culmination of this week’s Middle Eastern showpiece, those on the outside looking in will be targeting a strong finish including 11th-placed Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, who hits the lush fairways of Jumeirah Golf Estates at 11:50 alongside 23-time European Tour winner and Race to Dubai Number 12, Lee Westwood.
Elsewhere, Ryder Cup team-mates Martin Kaymer and Andy Sullivan – ranked 13th and 14th in The Race to Dubai coming into the final week of the season – will be reunited from 11:40, while Sergio Garcia will tee it up alongside young Chinese star Haotong Li at 11:10.
Last man in, Felipe Aguilar will hit the opening tee shot of the 2016 DP World Tour Championship at precisely 07:40 on Thursday morning.
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