DP World Tour Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
THIS extraordinary European Tour season finally reaches its climax this week with an all-star cast at DP World Tour Championship, with Patrick Reed hoping to become the first American to be crowned European Tour No 1. Incredibly, this is the 38th event of the year, and the European Tour is to be applauded for managing to produce such a schedule in incredibly difficult and trying circumstances.
Reed, who won the 2018 Masters, currently leads the Race to Dubai from 2017 winner Tommy Fleetwood, who will also be heading to Jumeirah Golf Estates, along with US PGA Champion Collin Morikawa, Lee Westwood and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who complete the top five.
The 30-year-old has made no secret of his aim of winning the Race to Dubai since first taking up European Tour membership in 2015. Reed finished runner-up to Danny Willett in 2018 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates and has also recorded two top tens in four appearances in the Race to Dubai finale.
‘Captain America' returned to the top of the Race to Dubai after finishing in a share of third place at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. He topped the standings earlier in the year after his victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February, his second World Golf Championship title.
“Winning the Race to Dubai and the European Tours’ Order of Merit has always been a goal of mine. I came close in 2018 and you can bet I will do my best to earn the top spot,” said Reed. “The DP World Tour Championship is an event I’ve been looking forward to since the rescheduled season was announced and it will be a great way to end 2020. Being a worldwide player is certainly at the forefront of my mind as a professional. Experiencing new cultures and playing in different conditions ultimately helps me become a more well-rounded golfer and person.
“I enjoy meeting new fans and travelling to different parts of the world to help grow the game of golf, and I truly enjoy the different cultures and countries that we visit and to be able to play at some of the best courses around the world, is such a gift, and something that I am truly grateful to be able to do.
“It would be an honour to become the first American to win the Race to Dubai and I’m really looking forward to the challenge of competing at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.”
Reed is a proper global star, a man who is not content with simply playing the target golf that is part and parcel of most events on the PGA Tour, and he is going to be a very hard man to beat.
Westwood, who is enjoying a renaissance in the autumn of his career, is trying to become only the third English golfer to win the Harry Vardon Trophy on three occasions alongside Bernard Hunt and Peter Oosterhuis, while Fleetwood could emulate Westwood and Nick Faldo’s achievements if he were to win his second Race to Dubai title in the space of four seasons.
Westwood, who looks like a shoo-in for Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team, said: “I’ve had success in Dubai over the years and it is somewhere I always enjoy playing golf, so it will be great to end the year there. I’m in a good position on the Race to Dubai and hopefully I can finish the year strongly.
“It’s a big honour for any player to be crowned the European Tour’s Number One. I’ve done it twice before so it’s great to have another chance again this year.”
There will be many who are rooting for Fleetwood, who is one of the most popular players on the European Tour. It is a measure of the man that in a season that he would not regard as being especially successful, he still has a chance of finishing as the top dog in Europe. He said: “Winning the Race to Dubai was one of the proudest moments of my career so far and I’m looking forward to being back at Jumeirah Golf Estates time with the chance to do it again. I’ve gone close the past two years in Dubai, finishing second and third in the rankings, and another Race to Dubai title would be very special to me, so I’m fully focused on the task ahead at the DP World Tour Championship.”
Making only his first start in a regular European Tour event, Morikawa will hope to cap an incredible season with a strong performance at the DP World Tour Championship. The 23-year-old became the third-youngest golfer to win the US PGA Championship when he triumphed at TPC Harding Park and set a new scoring record for the final 36 holes of the tournament with 129 strokes on what was just his 28th start as a professional golfer.
“I’m excited to travel to Dubai and play there for the first time. I've had the opportunity to play outside the United States a few times, which I think is important to experience early in my career, and I'm looking forward to playing in a new environment in the Middle East,” said Morikawa. “The opportunity to win the Race to Dubai is a thrill and it would be a great way to end an unforgettable year.” Your correspondent is still waiting for somebody to explain how a golfer who has never before played in a run-of-the-mill European Tour event can possibly find himself in position to win the Race to Dubai. I have nothing against Morikawa, but it would be a travesty if he were to win the Race to Dubai. And completely wrong.
Bezuidenhout climbed to fifth in the rankings after his two victories in South Africa, edging out Frenchman Victor Perez.
Perez will go in search of a second European Tour title when he returns to Dubai, alongside his 2019 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship success. The 28-year-old has enjoyed an impressive 2020 campaign with runner-up finishes at two of the four Rolex Series events of the season, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and BMW PGA Championship.
“I’m in a great position on the Race to Dubai and it would be an honour to finish the year as European Number One," said Perez. "I really enjoyed my first experience of the DP World Tour Championship last year, so I’m looking forward to returning with a chance of winning the Race to Dubai. The Rolex Series events are the highlights of our season, and everyone seems to raise their game for them; I'm excited for the challenge."
The DP World Tour Championship, Dubai is the fourth and final Rolex Series event of the reshaped 2020 Race to Dubai, following on from the Abu Dhabi Championship, Scottish Open and BMW PGA Championship. The Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai has hosted the season-ending event every year since 2009 and will once again see a star-studded cast assembling.
It was won in 2015 by Rory McIlroy, in 2016 by Matthew Fitzpatrick, in 2017 by Jon Rahm, in 2018 by Danny Willett, and last year by Rahm. Sadly, McIlroy and Rahm have decided not to make the trip, but the tournament will not suffer as a result of their non-appearance.
Rasmus Hojgaard, Robert MacIntyre, Sam Horsfield, Tyrrell Hatton, Aaron Rai, Willett, Martin Kaymer, and Brandon Stone are all potential winners, but I cannot see beyond Reed, and fancy that the men who will challenge him for the tournament will be Fleetwood and South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
Patrick Reed. The man to beat
Tommy Fleetwood. Don’t rule him out
Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Underrated
Patrick Reed. He’s here to win
Tommy Fleetwood. Wants a second Race to Dubai title - and a tournament win
Christiaan Bezuidenhout. One of the straightest hitters around
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Always a contender
Lee Westwood. Improving with age
Collin Morikawa. Wonderful golfer.
Robert MacIntyre. Back on track - and now a winner
Victor Perez. Saves his best for the big occasion
Aaron Rai. Has had a dream season
Rasmus Hojgaard. Will fancy his chances of yet another victory
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