Dozens of the World’s Top Players, Minus Rahm, Descend on Dubai for European Tour Finale—the DP World Tour Championships, Dubai
Collin Morikawa and Billy Horschel are in first and second in the Race to Dubai rankings and are vying to be the first American golfer to win the series. In addition, no American has won the DP World Tour Championships, Dubai either. A pair of two-time champions, however, stand in that duo’s way.
With Jon Rahm, sitting in third place in the Race to Dubai standings, having withdrawn from this event, it gives two Americans the chance to make history this week in Dubai.
Rory McIlroy, while he is unable to capture the Race to Dubai crown, is the favorite here and would be the first golfer to win this event three times, as the Northern Irishman has done so in 2012 and 2015, and he’s also coming off a win at The CJ Cup at Summit in his last tournament a month ago. Matt Fitzpatrick is another favorite and the defending champion, having also won here in 2016 as he attempts to be the first three-time winner.
The other two-time winners, Rahm and Henrik Stenson, are not in the field. Stenson is 87th in the Race to Dubai standings and failed to qualify. Another golfer who just missed out on the field is 2006 European Tour champ Padraig Harrington. Despite shooting a 67 in the final round of the AVIV Dubai Championship last week to finish in a tie for eighth, he missed out on qualifying here by one position after Jazz Janewattananond hit a 45-foot putt for eagle on the 18th hole to drop Harrington from fifth to eighth. The Irishman finished 57th in the Race to Dubai standings, but 56th would’ve put him in due to several withdrawals (generally, the top-50 in the standings are invited to the finale).
This is the richest event on the European Tour that’s not one of the four majors, as there’s a $9 million purse. In addition, the Race to Dubai has a $5 million purse, with $2 million going to that winner. The top-five in those rankings earn a cash bonus.
After the European Tour pros faced the Fire course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates last week, they tee it up on the longer Earth course for this week’s event. The course is par 72 and measures in at 7,675 yards.
Despite being in the desert, the course features rolling terrain, trees, and plenty of water. Greg Norman designed the golf course specifically for this event, and no one played on the course until this event debuted in 2009, which was won by Lee Westwood, who also won the Race to Dubai title in 2020.
The long course is punctuated by a 620-yard monster on hole No. 18, which is understandably a par 5.
Henrik Stenson set the tournament record in 2013 by shooting a 25-under 263, winning that event by six strokes over Ian Poulter.
With the field limited to 50 players, this is a no-cut event.
With his wins at The Open Championship and the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at the Concession, Morikawa leads the standings coming in. Regardless of where Morikawa finishes, he will win the title as long as Horschel finishes worse than a two-way tie for eighth and the four other contenders don’t win.
Horschel, the BMW PGA Championship winner in September, is in second place and can guarantee the Race to Dubai title for himself with a win. Rahm was in third and is not eligible to win prize money even if he finishes in the top five for not participating in this week’s tournament. Tyrrell Hatton is in fourth, and he, Min Woo Lee, Matt Fitzpatrick, and Paul Casey can take the Race to Dubai title with a win this weekend, but those four would need Morikawa to finish in a certain position in order to win. For Casey to win, Morikawa would have to finish worse than 12th and Horschel worse than fifth.
Rahm, who is the top-ranked golfer in the Official World Golf Rankings, said after missing the cut at the Andalucia Masters that he needed to take a break from golf. Many expected that he would return here, but he said earlier in this week that he will be extending his sabbatical.
“After lengthy discussions with my team, I have come to the difficult decision not to travel to Dubai next week,” Rahm said in a statement. “The demands of a long season with many ups and downs has taken a lot out of me. I feel I need to take time to recharge my batteries while spending quality time with my family.”
Rahm, who won the U.S Open and shot the lowest 72-hole score at the Tour Championship despite being beaten by Patrick Cantlay due to the unique scoring system in that event, said that he will compete on the European Tour next year, which will be known as the DP World Tour after a sponsorship agreement with DP World, a Dubai-based logistics company. Through the sponsorship, the minimum purse on Tour events will be $2 million, and the DP World Tour Championship next year will have a $10 million purse, becoming the first golf event outside the four majors to reach that milestone.
If the odds play out the way they are listed, Rory McIlroy and Collin Morikawa will resume their duel that they had last month at the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup. After an emotional loss at the Ryder Cup, McIlroy played in just one event to recharge his batteries, and that was a win at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas. He shot a final-round 66 to pass 54-hole leader Rickie Fowler and then held off a hard-charging Morikawa, who posted a 62 on his home course at Summit to finish just one stroke behind McIlroy for the tournament title.
Now, McIlroy (+600) is a narrow favorite over the American to win here. He has done so twice already and also has five more top-five finishes in this event, giving him confidence that he will end 2021 on a high note.
“It’s good to be here. It’s a place I’ve had success on; it’s a course that suits my game really well,” McIlroy said earlier this week. “I’ll have a good chance this week. I don’t feel like I need to do anything too special to give myself a chance on Sunday.”
Morikawa (+750), who has proclaimed that he wants to be a player on the world stage and not just on the PGA Tour in the United States, has played twice this year after being a part of the U.S.’s Ryder Cup win in September. He had the runner-up finish at the CJ Cup and followed that up with a seventh-place effort at the ZOZO Championship in Japan the following week.
“Winning the Race to Dubai would mean a lot because I want my game to travel,” Morikawa said in 2020. “I want to be a world player. I want to be able to bring my game anywhere, adapt to the different places I come to, and this is just the first step in doing that.”
Morikawa has had a banner year, winning the Claret Jug and the Ryder Cup, and a strong finish here will net him the Race to Dubai championship (unless Horschel wins). McIlroy has the experience edge over him, however, as Morikawa has only competed in this event once, which was a 10th-place finish last year, finishing at 7-under and eight shots behind Fitzpatrick.
Speaking of Matt Fitzpatrick, he and Abraham Ancer are at +1500 to win this tournament. Fitzpatrick, who has an outside chance of taking home the Race to Dubai title, has won here in two of his six starts here, and he also has a fourth and a ninth here on his resume, which gives him confidence going into this week’s tournament.
“It’s really nice to be back. [I have] nice memories for myself from 2016, and then obviously last year as well,” Fitzpatrick said. “You know the course like the back of your hand. I played the pro-am, and I’m thinking I could probably play it blindfolded anyway. The big thing for me is the greens are just so pure. They get really fast; they get firm…And statistically speaking, why [the course] suits me is because there’s a few more long irons, and apparently on paper I’m a bit better with my long irons than my mid-irons and short irons.”
Fitzpatrick also won in his last event on the European Tour, taking home the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama last month. He played two events on the PGA Tour since but didn’t fare as well, finishing 30th at the Bermuda Championship and was 64th two weeks ago in Mexico.
Ancer will be playing in this event for the first time, qualifying on the strength of his win at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and his eighth-place finish at the U.S. PGA Championship. Ancer has seven top-10 finishes since May, including a ninth at the Tour Championship in September and a seventh in his last tournament, the World Wide Technology Championship in his home country of Mexico two weeks ago.
Begin the tournament at +2000. Fleetwood, the 2017 Race to Dubai winner, tied for 10th here last year and has finished no worse than 13th in his last four events, which includes a runner-up finish at the Italian Open in September. He was 13th last week at the AVIV Dubai Championship on the neighboring Fire course. This will be his ninth-straight year taking part in the season-ending event, and his best finish was a second place in 2019, where he shot a 18-under but finished a stroke behind Rahm on the leaderboard.
Garcia hasn’t had great results as of late and he didn’t play in this event last year, but he does have some impressive finishes to his credit on the Earth course, including three-straight top-10 finishes—a fourth in 2017, ninth in 2018, and a sixth in 2019. Garcia has only shot over par here in two of his last 19 competitive rounds. He was seventh in the inaugural event in 2009.
Are at +2200 odds to win the tournament, and both can snatch the Race to Dubai championship with a win and a lower finish by Morikawa. Hatton was tied for eighth here last year and was second in his last European Tour tournament, which was the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He primarily plays on the PGA Tour, but he won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January and was the 2020 BMW PGA Championship winner as well. He hasn’t had great results on the PGA Tour this year, finishing 40th in Mexico two weeks ago before missing the cut last week in Houston.
Casey came in 31st last week on the Fire course and has some strong finishes in big events this year. He was fifth at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, seventh at the U.S. Open, and sixth at the Porsche European Open. He also has a win at the Omega Desert Classic here in Dubai from this past January.
Is at +2500 along with six other golfers, but he will draw the most attention since he can win the Race to Dubai title with a victory. Horschel is aiming to be the second golfer (McIlroy) and the first American to win both the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai season-long championships. His odds are a bit long due to the fact that he’s playing in this tournament for the first time. Horschel is putting the pressure on himself to win both titles and become the first American to win this event and the Race to Dubai, which would cement his legacy.
“Ultimately, my goal is to be a Hall of Famer, to have a heck of a career that I can be inducted into the Hall of Fame at one point in my career,” Horschel said. “There’s a lot on the line this week, and we’ll see how it all plays out when it comes to Sunday.”
Horschel has two victories this year—the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and the BMW PGA Championship, where he became the first American to win there since Arnold Palmer. Horschel also was tied for second at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession in February.
Finished tied for third here last year and was also the runner up in 2018. He had some health issues over the summer, but he seems to be over those, as he came in second at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship three weeks ago.
Is looking to improve on his recent history here, as he hasn’t finished inside the top 25 since a fourth-place result in 2016, but he does have some momentum after a runner-up finish last week at the AVIV Dubai Championship on the property here.
Given that this is an invitation-only event and a smaller field, there isn’t as much of a likelihood that a player will come out of nowhere to win.
One golfer who may be worth a flier is Laurie Canter at +4500. The Englishman finished fifth here a year ago in his tournament debut and has three top-five finishes in his last five events despite not having a European Tour win. Included in that span is a second-place finish at the BMW PGA Championship and a fourth at the Andalucia Masters after he was leading going into the final round before posting a 76 on Sunday at Valderrama.
Sean Crocker (+5500) finished 12th here last year despite being ranked last in putting in the entire field. If the big hitter can just be average on the putting game, he could find a place towards the top of the leaderboard.
And if you’re looking for momentum, Joachim B Hansen won the AVIV Dubai Championship last week to jump 42 spots in the standings up to 43rd, extending his stay in Dubai for another week.
With quite the star-studded lineup, McIlroy appears to have rediscovered his game and is coming off plenty of rest, so we like him here over Morikawa, who will likely be able to win the Race to Dubai without having to take too many chances unless Horschel is in contention for the win. We also like Horschel at +2500, as that’s a nice price for someone who would benefit so much from a victory.
|GOLFER||ODDS TO WIN THE 2021 DP WORLD TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Bernd Wiesberger / Billy Horschel / Shane Lowry||+2500|
|Min Woo Lee / Thomas Pieters / Patrick Reed / Will Zalatoris||+2500|
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