DP World Tour Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
AND so it all comes down to this. A thrilling season on the European Tour reaches its climax at the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeriah Estates and there is still everything to play for in the Race to Dubai.
Sergio Garcia is the only three-time winner, picking up the Dubai Desert Classic, The Masters and Andalucia Masters, while Tyrrell Hatton and Justin Rose enjoyed two victories - each achieved in successive weeks. Hatton won the Dunhill Links Championship and the following week added the Italian Open, while Rose won the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and then beat the field at the Turkish Airlines Open. For Rose, it meant that he came from nowhere in the Race to Dubai to move within touching distance of Tommy Fleetwood.
Fleetwood has had a year he will never forget. He won the Abu Dhabi Championship in January and later added the French Open, one of the Tour's prestigious Rolex Series events. He also finished second to Dustin Johnson at the WGC-Mexico Championship and contended at the US Open. On to of that, his partner gave birth to the couple's first child and when Fleetwood returned to action he broke the course record at Carnoustie with a scarcely credible round of 63, a score he repeated in Italy.
There was also an astonishing victory for Alex Noren at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, where the Swede stormed through the field thanks to an amazing final round of 62, or what about Paul Dunne's victory in the British Masters at Close House - looking for his first win as a professional, Dunne found himself going head to head in the final round with Rory McIlroy. The pair put on a brilliant display of golf. McIlroy finished the tournament with a 63 and still finished three strokes behind Dunne, who completed his final round of 61 by chipping in at the last hole.
There has also been another victory for Matthew Fitzpatrick, comeback wins for Edoardo Molinari and Alvaro Quiros, a heartwarming triumph at the South Africa Open for Graeme Storm, who came within a whisker of losing his card last season, and a tremendous victory for Jordan Smith in his first year on the European Tour.
Oh yes, and there was that amazing performance by Spain's Jon Rahm to win the Irish Open. Ian Poulter is still looking to turn his consistent play into a victory, but the Englishman has turned his game around and is climbing the world rankings once again. South Africans Haydn Porteous and Brandon Stone confirmed their huge potential by each winning, and Rafa Cabrera Bello also finally remembered how to get across the finishing line at the Scottish Open.
The only real disappointment has been the form of McIlroy, who lost in a playoff to Storm in South Africa and later revealed that he had damaged a rib while testing new drivers. He took some time off but never fully recovered and finished his season at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. It is unfortunate that he will not be in the field in Dubai, a venue where he has enjoyed considerable success in the past, but the hope is that he will return in 2018 fit, well and raring to go.
Fleetwood will be desperate to finish the season at the head of the Race to Dubai. He has played some wonderful golf in 2017 and would be bitterly disappointed to be caught. Barely 12 months ago he was languishing in the nether regions of the world rankings but he has worked his socks off and is now in the top 20. Fleetwood hits the ball an awfully long way for such a slight man. Because he uses the claw grip, it is widely believed that he is a suspect putter - nothing could be further from the truth.
Fleetwood, Rahm, Noren and Francesco Molinari will help to launch the tournament with the return of the Hero Challenge, the one-hole shootout that has been so popular. Fleetwood will be hoping to get his week in Dubai off to a perfect start before he attempts to secure the title of European Tour Number One. Rahm, meanwhile, is sure to relish the opportunity of playing under the floodlights at the iconic Atlantis Hotel on Tuesday evening, while Noren and Molinari will also be aiming to add their names to the illustrious list of Hero Challenge champions.
The two editions of the exciting night golf extravaganza this year have been won by Ryder Cup heroes from both sides of the Atlantic, with American Patrick Reed emerging victorious ahead of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in July, before England’s Lee Westwood claimed the title ahead of the British Masters.
Rose sat out the Nedbank Challenge and will arrive in Dubai with his batteries fully recharged, and the same will be true of Garcia, who has been at home back in the United States working on his game. If Fleetwood is going to fend of their challenge then he knows that he is going to have to be at his very best.
If you are looking for a surprise winner, then you may want to examine the credentials on Jordan Smith. Twelve months ago he had just completed a season on the Challenge Tour, gaining his playing privileges for the European Tour after winning twice. He took to playing with the big boys like a duck to water, quickly earning enough money to ensure that he would still be on tour next season, and then he won the Porsche European Open. He has just turned 25 and is just the latest in a long line of brilliant young English golfers. Many knowing sages believe that he will be playing for Europe in the Ryder Cup in Paris next year - victory in Dubai would go a long way towards proving those pundits right.
To Win: Justin Rose. On the crest of a wave
Each Way: Sergio Garcia. Looking for fourth win of 2017
Justin Rose. Has sights set on Fleetwood
Sergio Garcia. Don't be surprised to see him win
Jordan Smith. An incredible first season
Eddie Pepperell. What a difference a year makes
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Has good memories of Dubai
Tommy Fleetwood. Determined to keep his lead
Jon Rahm. Brilliant young Spaniard
Thomas Pieters. Can win anywhere
Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Has played sensational golf recently
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