Ahead of the DP World Tour Championship that starts on Thursday, we look at five star players set to shine.
Who do you think will win?
World ranking: 6
Race to Dubai position: 1
Last five DPWTC results: 13-16-4-4-17
Best finishes in 2018: Winner (BMW PGA Championship, Quicken Loans National, Open Championship), Second (John Deere Classic, Italian Open)
Top-10s in 2018: 2
The Italian has taken his game to a different level in 2018, with three tournament wins, including a first major at the Open Championship. He also made history by becoming first European to win all five matches at the Ryder Cup last month. The 36-year-old will be favourite to hold on to his Race to Dubai position and his crisp iron-play is a huge advantage on this course.
World ranking: 10
Race to Dubai position: 2
Last five DPWTC results: 37-12-53-9-21
Best finishes in 2018: Winner (Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship), Second (Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, US Open)
Top-10s in 2018: 8
The Englishman opened his year with a superb win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and has looked sublime since. His record-equalling round of 63 to finish a shot behind Brooks Koepka at the US Open is among his stand-out displays this season. Needs to win the DP World Tour Championship to have a chance of being crowned European number one again.
World ranking: 7
Race to Dubai position: 6
Last five DPWTC results: 5-2-1-9-DNP
Best finishes in 2018: Winner (Arnold Palmer Invitational), Second (Dubai Desert Classic, BMW PGA Championship, Open Championship)
Top-10s in 2018: 6
The 2015 champion has the ability to light up the big stage, but has not tasted major success in over four years. In 28 career rounds at the Earth course, his worst score is an even-par 72. Having finished in a tie for 21st at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa last week, the 29-year-old arrives in Dubai aiming to finish his season on a high. Expect his driver to continue to cause mayhem and help him to card some more low scores.
World ranking: 17
Race to Dubai position: 4
Last five DPWTC results: DNP-DNP-10-DNP-10
Best finishes in 2018: Winner (Masters), Second (Valspar Championship)
Top-10s in 2018: 6
A tie for seventh place finish in the HSBC Champions two weeks ago added some positivity to what has been a mixed season for the 28-year-old. Despite winning the Masters and placing fourth at the US Open, Reed managed just two other top-10 finishes since June. But like he has done in previous years, expect the American to fight tooth and nail until the last putt has dropped. Has the vast array of skills to improve on his two previous top-10 finishes in Dubai.
World ranking: 8
Race to Dubai position: 11
Last five DPWTC results: DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP-1
Best finishes in 2018: Winner (CareerBuilder Challenge, Open de Espana), Second (Sentry Tournament of Champions)
Top-10s in 2018: 6
The 24-year-old clinched wins at the CareerBuilder Challenge and Spanish Open earlier this year as well as top-four finishes at the Masters and PGA Championship. His 19-under par 269 en route to lifting the DP World Tour Championship title in 2017 shows he has form around the Earth course. Expect a strong title defence from the Spaniard, who finished in a tie for 22nd in Shanghai two weeks ago.
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Rory McIlroy has revealed that he may not fulfil the requirements for European Tour membership next season, a decision which would rule him out of being a Ryder Cup captain or vice-captain.
McIlroy needs to play four European Tour tournaments outside the majors and World Golf Championship events, but currently only has two on his schedule.
Players must be a member of the European Tour to be eligible to play in the Ryder Cup and, under new regulations introduced in January 2017, “players cannot be a European Ryder Cup captain or a vice-captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfil their minimum event obligation in any season, from 2018 onwards.”
“I am starting my year off in the States and that will be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then we will assess from there,” McIlroy said ahead of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
“I guess my thing is that I want to play against the strongest fields week-in and week-out and for the most part of the season that is in America. If I want to continue to contend in the majors and to continue my journey back towards the top of the game, then that’s what I want to do.
“Right now that is all sort of up in the air, but if it were to be that I don’t fulfil my membership next year, it’s not a Ryder Cup year so it’s not the end of the world.
“I am always going to want to play the Ryder Cup, so if that does happen so be it and I will try and make the Ryder Cup team the year after.”
McIlroy’s decision will be a major blow to European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, who launched the Rolex Series last year in an effort to prevent Europe’s star names from flocking to the lucrative PGA Tour.
The eight events each have a prize fund of at least £5.4million, with the BMW PGA Championship moving to September and the Italian Open to October following the US PGA Championship switching from August to May.
“It is a big shift but I think it’s good for a lot of reasons,” McIlroy added. “It is good for the European Tour because they have events to shine.
“Wentworth is going to be in September, the Italian Open and a lot of the big events are going to be after the PGA Tour season, so they are going to be the biggest events and strongest events in the world that week which is a good thing.”
McIlroy’s slim chance to win the Race to Dubai for the fourth time disappeared when he was unable to win last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, but the Northern Irishman hopes a new driver can help maintain his incredible form at Jumeirah Golf Estates where he has recorded finishes of 3-5-11-1-5-2-1-9.
“I think back to the first tee shot at Augusta on Sunday; Wentworth on the final day; Akron, final day; Tour Championship, final day. The reason I didn’t play better was because I didn’t put the ball in the fairway, and the reason I didn’t put the ball in the fairway is because I have this miss to the right with the driver,” the 29-year-old added.
“Unfortunately the new driver is only going to last a week because I have to get a new one next year again, but at least it gives me a better chance to win this week, I guess.”
Tommy Fleetwood admits he faces a “massively tall order” to overhaul Ryder Cup partner Francesco Molinari and win the Race to Dubai for the second year in succession.
Fleetwood trails Open champion Molinari by more than a million points and needs to win the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to have a chance of being crowned European number one again.
And even that would not be enough if the other half of the ‘Moliwood’ pair, who became the first European duo to win all four matches together at Le Golf National, finishes inside the top five at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“It’s nice to have a chance, as little as it is, but it’s a massively tall order,” Fleetwood said. “It’s a very good thing that we’ll be teeing off on Thursday together.
You’re going out there with the person that you’re closest with on Tour, trying to win the biggest prize that we play for.
“It’s a nice thing and if it doesn’t work out for me, I couldn’t be happier for him for what he’s achieved this year. We’ve literally never mentioned it until last week and then we made a couple of jokes about it. He’ll say it’s in my hands and I’ll say it’s in his. That’s just how it will be.”
Fleetwood was in Molinari’s position last year and almost lost out to Justin Rose, who led by a shot with seven holes to play in pursuit of a third straight win which would have given him the title.
Rose bogeyed three of the next five holes and was left needing to eagle the 18th to overhaul Fleetwood, but his long-range attempt slid by and the title was Fleetwood’s by just 58,821 points.
“Last year I didn’t really do a great job of leading and handling it and I think there was a massive focus on Race to Dubai,” Fleetwood added. “This year I can just concentrate on the tournament and what we need to do to win that.
“There’s a bigger element of freedom because that’s just the way it is. Unless I had a three-shot lead going into the back nine on Sunday, I can’t really lose anything. I either win or I don’t, and that’s pretty black and white this week.”
Even if Fleetwood cannot deny Molinari the title, the 27-year-old has still enjoyed a superbly consistent season featuring a successful title defence in Abu Dhabi, two runners-up finishes – one of which was after a closing 63 in the US Open – and eight other top 10s.
“I think this year for sure has been better than last year,” the world number 10 said. “I haven’t won as much, but it’s been better. I said it a couple of times when I finished last year, the number one thing was trying to kick on.
“So many things have improved this year. I have a PGA Tour card for the first time and got to the final event (Tour Championship) this year. I’ve still got a chance of winning the Race to Dubai, I’m doing better in majors and my world ranking has gone up.
“I’ve kind of kicked on like I’ve wanted to, but there’s still a lot more that I can do better. It’s very satisfying that it’s worked out, but we’re still nowhere near satisfied.”