Our golf scribe gives his tips for European Tour event, the DP World Tour Championship.
So the climax of the European season heads to Dubai for another instalment of the season-ending DP World Championship. The tournament was inaugurated in an obvious attempt to ape the successful Fed Ex Cup final format in 2009. Lee Westwood was the first champion and the picturesque Earth Course at the Jumeirah Golf Estate has been the home of the season-ending tournament ever since. Considering that the ultimate Race to Dubai champion was already decided prior to the climatic event in five of the last seven seasons, there have been some slight tweaks made to the points format to generate the requisite adrenalin-fuelled Sunday that all golf fans desire.
There are four possible champions, with Alex Noren and Rory McIllroy both requiring fairly elaborate permutations to succeed. It seems as if the honour of being European number one will be principally contested between Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett. Willet has been on an alarming downward trajectory since that disastrous Ryder Cup campaign. Stenson has been a metronomic model of consistency and should feel confident of clinching the title again. Rory has perhaps the greatest incentive of the bunch, knowing that he could cap off a fairly mercurial season as World Number 1 should he win.
This testing Greg Norman inspired course is reminiscent of your standard desert course, with undulating fairways and deviously placed water traps. The par 3 17th and par 5 18th make for a grandstand finish as water lurks menacingly to destroy tournament hopes. Rory - en route to victory last season - memorably found the water at that impudent par 3. The course should favour the heavy hitters, with only one winner of the previous six champions ranking outside of the top eight for driving distance.
DP World Tour Championship | Thursday 17 November - Sunday 20 November | The Earth Course, Jumeirah Golf Estate, Dubai
2015: Rory McIllroy -21 | 2014: Henrik Stenson -16 | 2013: Henrik Stenson -23 | 2012: Rory McIllroy -23 | 2011: Alvaro Quiros -19
To Win Outright
Rory McIllroy 33/10 | Henrik Stenson (6/1) | Alex Noren 14/1 | Branden Grace 18/1 | Andy Sullivan 22/1
Thomas Pieters: To Win 35/1 & To Place 77/10
Pieters’ price has dropped considerably since a few disappointing post-Ryder Cup showings. The explosive Belgian will feel disappointed with showings at the Alfred Dunhill and Nedbank Challenge, but will know that this golf course suits him to a tee. His huge distance will suit this long course while his occasionally errant accuracy will be forgiven by the undulating fairways. When Quiros won in 2011, he ranked 55th out of 60 for driving accuracy. Pieters also finished 2nd in Abu Dhabi and in a tie for 14th at the WGC HSBC Championship. He is a steal at 35/1 to win. He will need to improve tactically on playing the final hole. He finished 22nd last year, but played the final par 5 in 4 over for the week.
Victor Dubuisson: To Win 90/1 & To Place 19/1
The talented 26-year-old Frenchman has been the bane of punters for some time, always threatening to break through into the mainstream. He has found a semblance of form recently however, with an impressive tie for 3rd at a hugely competitive Nedbank Challenge last week. He has 2 top 5’s in 4 starts at the Earth Course and has also played well at the Abu Dhabi HSBC and the Qatar Masters. His only two European Tour victories have come in Turkey, indicating that this is a prolific period of the calendar for the big-hitting Frenchman.
Alejandro Canizares: To Win 100/1 & To Place 22/1
Canizares is the proverbial nearly man of the European tour. One thing that does work to his detriment going into this week is the fact that he is not exceptionally long with the driver. I’m going with Canizres on recent form and value. He has 4 top 10’s in his last 10 starts, including that hugely impressive tie for 3rd at the Gary Player’s challenging Sun City golf course. He has finished in the top 10 in both the Abu Dhabi HSBC and the Dubai Desert Classic. 22/1 to place seems like a golden opportunity, despite the strong year-ending field.
The Man to Beat
Branden Grace To Win 18/1 & To Place 33/10
Free from the pressure of actually vying for the top prize, South Africa’s Branden Grace could be the dark horse for victory this week. He had an amazing ‘Arab Spring’, winning this season’s Qatar Masters and finishing in a tie for 5th in Abu Dhabi. He clearly enjoys this area and finished in a respectable tie for 3rd at the Nedbank Challenge. On the cusp of winning several majors in the last few years - he finished with top fives at both this year’s US Open and US PGA Championship - Grace has emerged as one of the game’s most dangerous players on the loftier stages. His prodigious length off the tee and potentially lethal iron play could see him storm past the likes of Stenson and McIllroy this week.
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