After 44 tournaments played over 11 months across 24 countries and five Continents, the frontrunners in The Race to Dubai will this week converge on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates for a fitting finale to another superb European Tour season at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
The elite field of 57 players reads like a who’s who of world golf, with 28 winners from The 2012 European Tour International Schedule – including World Number One and Race to Dubai champion Rory McIlroy – lining up to battle it out for the US$8million prize fund and a share of the US$3.75million Bonus Pool awarded to the top ten.
In theory, anyone in the top 34 of The Race to Dubai could still finish in the top ten with victory at Jumeirah Golf Estates, meaning the likes of Major Champions Paul Lawrie of Scotland (currently tenth) and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell (ninth) – and even last year’s Harry Vardon Trophy winner, England’s Luke Donald (eighth) – will all be looking nervously over their shoulders.
Donald arrives in Dubai in fine form, however, having moved back up to World Number Two with victory in the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour last week – his third win around the world this year; whilst his compatriot Ian Poulter – currently in fifth place in The Race to Dubai – finished runner-up at the Australian Masters in Melbourne.
Another man in form is Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who assured his berth in the fourth edition of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai with victory at last week’s SA Open Championship – his first European Tour title for more than five years.
In contrast, McIlroy missed only his third cut on the European Tour this season at last week’s UBS Hong Kong Open, but the Northern Irishman boasts an impressive record in Dubai, having captured his debut European Tour title at the 2009 Omega Dubai Desert Classic and finished third (2009), fifth (2010) and tied 11th (2011) in the last three editions of the DP World Tour Championship.
He said: “Obviously Hong Kong wasn’t the week that I wanted, but at least it gave me the chance get to Dubai a bit earlier and work on a few things. I definitely needed to work on my putting a little bit, because I feel like I’m still hitting the ball well, I just haven’t holed enough putts over the past two weeks. I was maybe also a little bit tired, mentally and physically.
“I think if I was completely fresh, I wouldn’t have made the mistakes I did in Hong Kong last week. So in some ways, even though I obviously wanted to defend my title in Hong Kong, maybe having the weekend off worked out for the best, as it gave me the chance to rest up and recharge the batteries. It’s already been an amazing season, and hopefully I can round it off in style in Dubai this week.”
McIlroy will be joined at the Earth Course by five former European Number Ones in Lee Westwood (2000 and 2009), Padraig Harrington (2006), Justin Rose (2007), Martin Kaymer (2010) and Donald (2011).
The field also includes a total of 52 European Tour champions, including Branden Grace, a four-time winner this season.
Meanwhile, two-time winners Peter Hanson, Paul Lawrie, Louis Oosthuizen and Bernd Wiesberger are all bidding to claim their third titles this week.
The elder statesman in the field is 48 year old Miguel Angel Jiménez, the evergreen Spaniard who became the oldest winner in the history of The European Tour when he won last week’s UBS Hong Kong Open aged 48 years and 318 days.
At the other end of the spectrum is Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, who finished in a tie for fourth place behind Jiménez at Hong Kong Golf Club last week.
Along with Ryder Cup stars Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium (11th in The Race to Dubai) and England’s Westwood (12th), Manassero has designs on making a late charge from 13th on The Race to Dubai into the top ten to claim a significant slice of the Bonus Pool.