Dubai: A highly motivated defending champion, a former three-time winner who is always, always dangerous in Dubai and an Austrian on song, are all set to create some magic over the next four days as the $8 million DP World Tour Championship returns to the UAE.
Danny Willett, Rory McIlroy and Bernd Wiesberger head a star-cast of the leading 50 golfers in this week’s season finale at the Jumeirah Golf Estates, which culminates in the crowing of Europe’s number one player on Sunday.
In a sport where youth have been threatening to take over, it’s the turn of this trio of 30-somethings to put their experience to the test on a course that the legendary Greg Norman designed to bring out the best in a player.
Whoever wins will be the golfer who endures Norman’s very own version of Augusta National’s dreaded Amen Corner, where many US Masters titles have been won and lost and the daunting ‘Golden Mile’ finish extending over the final four holes.
Not just once, but on four consecutive days.
Twelve months ago, Englishman Danny Willett achieved the feat, when he snapped a 31-month winless streak to record a gripping two-stroke triumph over Patrick Reed and Jon Rahm at the Earth Course.
The 34-year-old, who reached the pinnacle of his career at the 2016 Masters when he became the first British player to win the Green Jacket since Nick Faldo in 1996, is looking forward to defending his title against some of European golf’s most celebrated players.
Assessing his chances of a repeat win, the Yorkshireman said yesterday: “It’s always nice to come back and defend a title anywhere in the world, and for it to be the final event of the year in Dubai with the new format of 50 guys competing in a really strong field again - it’s good fun.
“We’ll see how the week pans out, how the weather is looking. I’m sure we’ll get four exciting days of golf for everyone that comes to the event. Hopefully on Sunday we’re in a similar position.”
Meanwhile, Austria’s Wiesberger is relishing the prospect of challenging for a maiden Race to Dubai title, where he leading a group of five players who can all end this week’s DP World Tour Championship also as winners of the Race to Dubai and pocket a prize purse of $6million.
The 34 year old is currently on pole position with 4,802.4 points and with a further 2,000 points on offer for this week’s winner, he will claim the Race to Dubai trophy. Even a second place finish will be good enough to ensure that he ends the year as Europe’s No 1 player.
“It would be a huge achievement for me,” said Wiesberger. “I grew up watching European Tour legends like Seve (Ballesteros), (José Maria) Olazábal, Colin Montgomerie who won so many times in a row at the time when I started getting into golf.
“It’s something that looked a long distance away, but, obviously, it’s much closer now!
Another leading contender is England’s Tommy Fleetwood who enters the tournament in second place with 4,079.8 points.
He is followed by Jon Rahm (3,898.3 points) and Paul Lowry (3,613 points).
Fleetwood, the 2016 DP World Tour Championship winner has an outside chance of winning the Race to Dubai this week - he needs to win and hope that on Wiesberger finishes lower than fourth and Fleetwood lower than second.
Every which way you look at it the Race to Dubai, which spans 47 tournaments in 13 countries across five continents, has all the makings of being a thriller, rain or no rain.
Tournaments in 31 countries across four continents comprise the Race to Dubai. a season-long competition to crown the European Tour’s number one player.
Is the prize fund for DP World Tour Championship, the culmination of the European Tour Race to Dubai, which takes place at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Was when the tournament was first held when it replace the older Order of Merit