After battling it out for the best part of a year, the European Tour’s Race to Dubai culminates this week with the DP World Tour Championship hosted the famously challenging Earth Course.
Whilst race leader Rory McIlroy and his nearest competitor, Danny Willett, will be battling it out for their own taste of glory, the rest of the 80+ field will have their eyes solely on the title here.
There appears to be two players with outstanding claims to lift the trophy come Sunday, and another pair that look handsome each way value.
Rory McIlroy (9/2)
That’s a mighty short price given the nature of strokeplay golf – it only takes one bad hole to scupper a player’s title push – but if any of this field looks set to tame this notorious course then it is the Ulsterman.
McIlroy won this event in 2012, which always helps us to mark our card, and he boasts the credentials to do the same this year. The Earth Course rewards clean ball striking as it is a bit of a beast, and so big drives and lengthy irons are the order of the day. There are few in the field that boast these qualities as abundantly as McIlroy.
By his own exceptional standards, it hasn’t been a fantastic year for the world number three, and yet he has won two titles and finished in the top ten of seven other tournaments. We know he was hampered for much of the summer through injury, and that affected his win tally, but the fact that he is still the leading money-winner on the European Tour in 2015 speaks volumes. His last outing at the HSBC Championship could have also ended in triumph but for a second round of 72.
McIlroy has won three events in Dubai so he clearly loves it here, and if you needed further convincing he has finished in the places in this competition in five of his six outings. If you need any further persuading to place a decent-sized each way wager, I’m not sure there is anything we could possibly add!
Henrik Stenson (6/1)
Having won this event in 2013 and 2014, it’s little wonder that many pundits fancy Henrik Stenson to go close this weekend.
The Swede’s game is tailor-made for this course, with his long game stats as impressive as anybody’s in world golf. Given his propensity to not miss the green here, and that unerring ability to get the job done in Dubai, Stenson has the edge.
But it has not been a stellar year for the world number six, and he remains winless on tour for the whole of this calendar year to date. It would be typical punters’ luck that he comes up trumps here; but it would be, in all senses of the word, a gamble to back a pot-less Stenson.
Victor Dubuisson (22/1)
Another player that boasts the punters paradise of current form and strong course history is Frenchman Victor Dubuisson. He finished second here in 2013 and third in 2014, so clearly has the game to do some serious challenging here.
As he showed in his Turkish Open victory earlier in November, Dubuisson’s long game is hitting a purple patch at the moment, and but for a stinking second round at the BMW Masters last time out he could have contended for a second consecutive title given his exceptional first round of 65.
With his ability to go low on the Par 5s, if the world number 35 can get his putter going he could well be in the mix for a place yet again.
Byeong Hun An (30/1)
With three top 20 finishes in his last three outings – including two top fives – the Korean has to be considered good value here.
Ironically, An is one of the few players who can – mathematically at least – still capture the Race to Dubai crown should McIlroy and Willett both miss the cut. Unlikely as that seems, that might just give the 24-year-old some added impetus.
His game is in good nick – he missed a putt to make the play-off at last week’s BMW Masters, and he has shown some good form in the Middle East in the past. As a winner of a blue riband event – the BMW PGA Championship – the world number 39 has got the bottle to get the job done.