Matt Fitzpatrick will launch his defence of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, in the company of Bernd Wiesberger when play gets under way at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Thursday morning.
England’s Fitzpatrick got up-and-down from the greenside bunker on the 72nd hole for a closing birdie and a one-shot victory here 12 months ago, and will tee off at 11.50 local time alongside Austrian Wiesberger, who finished tied fourth in this event last year, as the European Tour’s finest gather for the eighth and final Rolex Series tournament in 2017.
With the first round traditionally drawn in Race to Dubai Rankings order, long-time leader Tommy Fleetwood comes into the week nearly 260,000 points clear at the top and he will be paired with one of only two players still in with a slim chance of stopping his coronation as European Number One this week in Dubai.
The Englishman hits the Earth Course in the last group out at 12.40 on Thursday with compatriot and 2008 European Number One Justin Rose, who won in back-to-back starts at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and then the Turkish Airlines Open a week later to move into the mix at the top of the Rankings.
Meanwhile, in an all-Spanish, all-star penultimate pairing at 12.30, Masters champion Sergio Garcia is grouped with his younger countryman Jon Rahm.
Garcia is more than one million points behind Fleetwood with 72 holes of the 2017 season remaining but still mathematically has a chance of being crowned Race to Dubai champion, while Dubai Duty Free Irish Open victor Rahm has long been on a seemingly unstoppable trajectory towards the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award at fourth in the money-list.
Elsewhere, another in-form man in Tyrrell Hatton, who also recently won in consecutive weeks at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and Italian Open, is off at 12.20 with fellow Englishman Ross Fisher, while Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open winner Rafa Cabrera Bello is out at 12.10 in the company of Sweden's Alex Noren..
Fresh from an eighth European Tour win and first Rolex Series title at last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, ninth-ranked Branden Grace will tee off at midday alongside Italy’s Francesco Molinari.
Ian Poulter finished tied 19th last week at the Nedbank Golf Challenge – his sixth straight top 25 finish on the European Tour – to claim the 60th and final spot in the field and the Ryder Cup star will get the season-ending event started with the first tee shot of the day at 07.40 on Thursday.