Nicolai Højgaard
Rory McIlroy (L) won the 2023 Race to Dubai and Nicolai Højgaard (R) won the 2023 DP World Tour Championship Image Credit: Supplied

This week’s European Open on the DP World Tour officially marks the halfway point of the 2024 Race to Dubai, where all roads lead to the season-ending DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November.

This season’s schedule, which began 186 days ago in Australia, has already featured two Major Championships, a Rolex Series event in the UAE, a plethora of first-time winners and Rory McIlroy doing Rory McIlroy things.

Here, we dive into the standout stories so far and look at who is in pole position for this year’s Race to Dubai crown as well as those in danger of losing their playing privileges.

What is a Rolex Series event?
The Rolex Series is the premium tournament category on the DP World Tour and comprises its five most prestigious events: Hero Dubai Desert Classic, Genesis Scottish Open; BMW PGA Championship, Abu Dhabi Championship and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship. Launched in 2017 and coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the partnership between Rolex and the European Tour Group, this collection of elite events delivers the highest quality golf, played in iconic locations, in the global spirit of the game

LIV Golf cause a stir

Despite the majority of LIV Golf players resigning their DP World Tour memberships last year in the wake of mounting fines and suspensions due to joining the breakaway circuit, that doesn’t necessarily mean they cannot play DP World Tour events.

The defectors can still take advantage of National Spots and Sponsor Invites on tournament entry lists – they will just not receive Race to Dubai points, which means they cannot play themselves into the DP World Tour Play-Offs later this year in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen leads the way at the halfway point of The Open
Louis Oosthuizen is an 11-time winner on the DP World Tour Image Credit: Reuters

Between November 23rd and December 17th 2023, two LIV players used this to their advantage to win four of the five events in that period. South African Dean Burmester collected the Joburg Open and South African Open Championship on home soil, while his compatriot won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, also in South Africa, and the Mauritius Open.

And the winner of the fifth event in that period? Joaquín Niemann, who picked up the Australian Open to ensure LIV Golf members won five consecutive events on the DP World Tour. Unlike the South African duo, Niemann remains a DP World Tour member and has been picking up fines and one-week suspensions each time he plays a LIV event.

It’s safe to say that LIV players winning five of the first six events on the 2024 Race to Dubai wasn’t the start DP World Tour chiefs wanted.

Rory McIlroy claims historic fourth title at Dubai Desert Classic

After 36 holes of the 2024 Dubai Desert Classic, Rory McIlroy’s chances of defending his title and claiming a record-breaking fourth Dallah Trophy looked slim to none, with the Northern Irishman ten strokes off the lead.

But then the former World No.1 did what he does best. Go low.

A sublime third round 63, which included a quite brilliant eagle on the 18th that I had a front row seat to, put him in the final group for the final round at Emirates Golf Club.

He then turned a two-shot deficit into a four-shot lead with six holes to play before a bogey on the 13th gave the chasing Adrian Meronk and Cameron Young a glimmer of hope.

Dubai-based Meronk cut the lead to one as he signed for a 71 but McIlroy held his nerve down the stretch and carded a 70 for a 14 under par total and a one-shot win. The victory saw him become the outright leader of victories at the historic tournament, pulling clear of the three triumphs that Ernie Els has.

"Just to think like 18 years ago, and what it meant to come here and play in this event, to be sitting here, you know, having won it four times, and all the great experiences that I've had in Dubai and the friends that I've met and everything sort of along the way, it's always been a place where I come back to and reminisce about my career because I really feel like it's where everything started," said McIlroy following his victory.

UAE’s No.1 professional golfer shines in Ras Al Khaimah

Playing on an invitation from the Emirates Golf Federation, the UAE’s No.1 professional golfer, Joshua Grenville-Wood, grabbed his opportunity with both hands to finish inside the top ten at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship. The result bagged the 26-year-old a tidy €45,012.48 as well as filling him with confidence as he looks to secure full DP World Tour playing privileges for the 2025 season.

Grenville-Wood will tee it up on the Challenge Tour, the feeder Tour to the DP World Tour, for the fifth time this season when he heads to the Czech Republic next month as he looks to build on his current ranking of 28th on the Road to Mallorca standings.

Only the top 20 following the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final in November earn playing privileges for the DP World Tour.

Sport - Golf - Joshua Grenville-Wood
Joshua Grenville-Wood hopes to be playing full time on the DP World Tour in 2025 Image Credit: Supplied

With a limited exemption category on the Challenge Tour, the Dubai resident’s aim of securing one of those places is a tricky one as he can’t play every event on the schedule.

Instead, he is relying on invites from sponsors and the Emirates Golf Federation to compete this season.

How do the Emirates Golf Federation receive these invites, I hear you ask.

The UAE’s governing body of golf has swapped several of their 60 allocated invitations into April’s Abu Dhabi Challenge and UAE Challenge with other international federations to allow UAE players to compete in other Challenge Tour events around the world.

Grenville-Wood must perform well in these limited starts if he is to have any chance of competing against the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood on a regular basis.

Matteo Manassero returns to winner’s circle

After a near 11-year wait, Matteo Manassero returned to the winner’s circle on the DP World Tour with an emotional three-shot triumph at the Jonsson Workwear Open.

It marked quite the comeback for the Italian, who had found himself playing on the Nordic Golf League and the Alps Tour in recent years after struggling to get to grips with his game.

Matteo Manassero
Matteo Manassero claimed his fifth DP World Tour win earlier this year Image Credit: DP World Tour

When Manassero first emerged onto the golf scene, he was one of the game’s hottest properties, winning his first DP World Tour event at the 2010 Castelló Masters Costa Azahar, where he became the Tour's youngest winner at the age of 17 years and 188 days.

He went on to win three more times in the next three years, including the 2013 BMW PGA Championship – the Tour’s flagship event. That remained his last victory on Tour before his remarkable triumph in South Africa earlier this year.

"This is the best day of my life on a golf course for sure," said Manassero following his triumph. "It's been a crazy journey over the last couple of years. I knew that I was getting on the right track but then you never know.

"Even coming down the 18th with a good tee-shot, you still have to do some work. Golf is a really difficult and tough game so I am just so incredibly happy to be here holding this (trophy) right now."

Keita Nakajima crowned DP World Tour winner three years after Dubai Creek triumph

Three years ago, Keita Nakajima became the third player from Japan to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, defeating Hong Kong's Taichi Kho on the second hole of a thrilling playoff on Saturday at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.

Fast forward to 2024 and the rising star is now a winner on the DP World Tour after a wire-to-wire victory at the Hero Indian Open in March.

Keita Nakajima became the third player from Japan to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship
Keita Nakajima celebrates his victory at Dubai Creek in 2021 Image Credit: AAC

With the triumph, Nakajima became the fifth player from Japan to win on the DP World Tour, following Isao Aoki, Hideki Matsuyama, Ryo Hisatsune and Rikuya Hoshino

Scheffler and Schauffele claim Major silverware

While Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele got their hands on the two Major Championships that have already taken place this year, neither of the American duo are currently DP World Tour members.

Scottie Scheffler won the Masters Tournament for the second time last week
Scottie Scheffler won The Masters for a second time in April Image Credit: Masters Tournament

With the pair not receiving any Race to Dubai points for their victories at the Masters Tournament and PGA Championship respectively, the biggest movers on the Rankings from the two events were Ludvig Åberg and former Dubai Desert Classic champion Viktor Hovland.

Åberg entered the Race to Dubai Rankings in fifth place thanks to his runner-up finish at Augusta National, in what was his Major Championship debut, while Hovland entered the Rankings in 19th place after finishing third at the PGA Championship.

Who is in pole position to win the Harry Vardon Trophy?

Despite only playing four events on the Race to Dubai schedule, Rory McIlroy leads the Rankings, largely thanks to his impressive start to the season in the UAE.

As well as winning the aforementioned Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy also finished runner-up at the season-opening Dubai Invitational.

Those two tournaments saw the four-time Major winner bank an impressive 1,596 Race to Dubai points, while his other two outings, The Masters and PGA Championship, only mustered 255 points to give him a total of 1,851 points at the summit of the Rankings.

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McIlroy leads the way in the Rankings Image Credit: USA Today

Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino is just under 600 points behind McIlroy in second after making an impressive start to the season with runner-up finishes on his first two starts at the Australian PGA Championship and Australian Open.

Four starts later he claimed his maiden DP World Tour victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. The Japanese star has played a total of 10 events so far on the 2024 schedule.

Jesper Svensson, who has competed in 13 events, completes the top three after graduating from the Challenge Tour.

The Swede was runner-up on two of his first six starts on the 2024 Race to Dubai before earning a maiden victory at the Porsche Singapore Open, defeating Kiradech Aphibarnrat in a play-off at Laguna National.

With two Major Championships and four Rolex Series events still to come in 2024, all of which offer bumper Race to Dubai point allocation, expect the Rankings to chop an change plenty of times over the next five months.

Who is the Harry Vardon Trophy awarded to?
The Harry Vardon Trophy is awarded to the leading player on the Race to Dubai following the conclusion of the DP World Tour Championship. Some of the game’s greatest players have won the trophy, including Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Colin Montgomerie, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer.

Who is in danger of losing their card?

While that trio have all enjoyed a solid start to the season, others have failed to replicate that form and find themselves in danger of losing their DP World Tour playing privileges for the 2025 season.

The provisional cut off for retention of DP World Tour membership via the Race to Dubai Rankings currently stands at the top 113. Any full members who are lower than that following the final regular season event in South Kora in October will lose their playing privileges.

Dubai resident Adri Arnaus is one of those players who finds himself outside of the top 113 after a disappointing start to the 2024 season. The Spaniard has only made four cuts from 13 events which has left him languishing in 148th.

Adri Aranus
Dubai's Adri Arnaus has struggled with his game this season Image Credit: Supplied

Five-time DP World Tour winner and former Ryder Cupper Ross Fisher also needs a turnaround in form if he is to remain on the Tour.

The Englishman narrowly avoided losing his card last year, finishing 116th on the Rankings with 117th and lower losing their playing rights, and finds himself currently ranked 117th having missed six cuts from 13 events.

Other strugglers include last year’s Abu Dhabi challenge winner Ricardo Gouevia (143rd), 2023 and 2025 European Ryder Cup Vice Captain Edoardo Molinari (156th) and two-time DP World Tour winner Eddie Pepperell.