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DP World Tour Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 15 Nov 2021 | Comments


ALL eyes will be on Rory McIlroy as he arrives in Dubai for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship. He has no chance of winning the Race to Dubai but will want to prove that his victory in the CJ Cup was the start of a change in fortunes.

It is a measure of McIlroy’s standing in the game that 2021 is widely regarded as having been a disappointing one for the Northern Irishman, despite the fact that he won twice on the PGA Tour. But he didn’t genuinely contend in any of the four majors and had a dismal Ryder Cup. He believes that his experience at Whistling Straits may well have been a turning point.

Earlier in the year he turned to renowned swing coach Pete Cowan for help with his golf swing. Shortly afterwards he won the Wells Fargo Championship but it was a victory that hinged on a superb week on the greens, when he was holing putts for fun. But McIlroy was the first to admit that his game was nowhere near where he wanted it to be.

For the first time in his career, he sat out a Ryder Cup session after three defeats, and then told Europe’s captain, Padraig Harrington, that he wanted to go out last in the final-day singles. However, Shane Lowry took McIlroy to one side and reminded him that he was Europe’s leader and that he should be going out first. He reluctantly agreed and duly went out and won but later broke down in tears as he told the world that he had let his team down.

He then headed home for some reflection and decided that it was time to go back to trusting his instincts rather than filling his head full of swing thoughts. And, lo and behold, he went out and won the CJ Cup. McIlroy has now announced that he is stepping away from Cowen and returning to his life-long coach Michael Bannon.

Rory McILROY

He would love nothing more than to finish his season with a win in Europe’s most lucrative tournament - and it would take a brave man to bet against him doing precisely that.

In saying that, Americans Collin Morikawa and Billy Horschel, who are first and second in standings, will be determined to finish on top of the pile and become the first Americans to win the Race to Dubai.

They have been helped by the surprise news that world No1 Jon Rahm has decided to give the tournament a miss. He said after missing the cut at the Andalucia Masters that he felt ready for a rest and has decided to spend the time in America with his family.

The DP World Tour Championship comprises the top 50 in the Race to Dubai standings but there will be some notable absentees - Francesco Molinari, Henrik Stenson, Matt Wallace and 2020 champion Lee Westwood have all missed out.

Last year, Westwood won the Race to Dubai title after an extraordinary finish to the season at the DP World Tour Championship. Matthew Fitzpatrick won the event on 15 under but fellow Englishman Westwood took the season-long title after Laurie Canter double bogeyed the par-three 17th.

Canter's error lifted Westwood, 47, into second place on his own. That was enough to pip Fitzpatrick and Patrick Reed, who led the standings at the start of the week, but ended third.

Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, was trying to become the first American to win the title of Europe's top golfer. He started the final round in a share of the lead with Fitzpatrick and Canter, knowing a victory would guarantee him the Race to Dubai title. But although he holed three chips for birdies - including at the last hole - he also had four bogeys in a scrappy two-under-par final round that saw him finish on 13 under, level with Norway's Viktor Hovland.

Fitzpatrick needed to win the tournament, played on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, and hope Westwood finished no higher than third and Reed fourth but in the end had to settle for £2.2m and his second DP World Tour Championship title, having also won in 2016.

"It was just a grind. I wanted to win for my family, all the hard work they put in supporting me on and off the course," said Fitzpatrick, who finished with a four-under-par 68. "It was just trying to make pars, not losing ground. It was a bit up and down on the back nine, but it was just about staying in it and maintaining the lead I built early on.”

Matt Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick started with four straight birdies to open up a three-shot lead. But Reed remained in contention, chipping in for birdie on the seventh and 15th holes as the Race to Dubai lead fluctuated between the pair, with Westwood never really threatening. He looked to have blown his chances this year when he bogeyed the par-five 14th - however, two birdies in his final three holes saw him sign for a four-under-par 68 and set the clubhouse lead on 14 under.

He still required help from Canter, who fluffed a chip on the par-three 17th and walked off with a five, which was enough to propel Westwood up to second on his own.

If Canter had eagled the par-five last, he would have snatched the Race to Dubai title from Westwood and handed it back to Fitzpatrick, but a wayward second shot ended those hopes and he ended up with a par and 12 under total. It meant Westwood pipped Fitzpatrick to the Harry Vardon Trophy by just 17.8 points to become the oldest winner - Colin Montgomerie was 42 when he won the last of his eight titles in 2005.

"It's been a bizarre season for so many reasons," said Westwood, who was first crowned Europe's top golfer 20 years ago and won his second European money prize in the inaugural Race to Dubai season in 2009. "The European Tour have done an incredible job to pick the season up again from July and have tournaments on every week.

"It's been 20 years since I sat there at Valderrama to win the Order of Merit, as it was then. It's not getting any easier, I am not getting any younger. I had a bit of a back problem and it nearly cost me this week - on Monday I didn't know if I was going to play.

"I am just enjoying playing golf against these great young players - these kids are so good now. Matt feels like he has been out here for years but is still in his mid-20s and finished like a pro there.”

Fitzpatrick recently won the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama so his confidence is sky-high. The Englishman plays his best golf on tough courses and must fancy his chances of winning again.

The Course

The magnificent Earth Course was designed by Greg Norman and opened in 2009. It is a par 72 and measures 7,480 yards. Unsurprisingly, it features a lot of sand. It features dozens of mature trees and water features. The fairways are lush and the greens are fabulous. A round of golf here will set you back in the region of £200.

Tournament Winners

It was won in 2015 by Rory McIlroy, in 2016 and in 2020 by Matt Fitzpatrick. in 2017 and in 2019 by Jon Rahm and in 2018 by Danny Willett.

Form Guide

Rory McIlroy is a former winner on the Earth Course and is full of confidence once more after claiming the CJ Cup. Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick is looking for his third victory, won the recent Andalucia Masters and has continued his good form in America. Thomas Pieters is fresh from winning the Portugal Masters but had been showing some form before that, finishing 16th at the Mallorca Open and ninth at the Dutch Open.

To Win:

Rory McIlroy. Would love to add to 2015 success

Each Way:

Matt Fitzpatrick. Looking for a third win here

Each Way:

Billy Horschel. Already a winner on the European Tour this season

Players to Follow:

Rory McIlroy. Now trusting in his natural ability

Matt Fitzpatrick. Fabulous short game

Billy Horschel. Would love to be the first American to win the Race to Dubai

Thomas Pieters. Finally back in the winners’ circle

Five Outsiders to Watch:

Antoine Rozner. Classy French golfer

Rafa Cabrera Bello. Turned his year around with a win on home soil

Adrian Meronk. Secured his place with a runner-up finish at the Italian Open

Laurie Canter. Has found some real consistency

Nicolai Hojgaard. Emerging from shadow of his twin brother


Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography


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