Five players are in with a chance of winning the Race to Dubai ahead of the European Tour season finale at Jumeirah Golf Estates this weekend.
Bernd Wiesberger leads the points standings, and only Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Shane Lowry and Matt Fitzpatrick can catch him this week in Dubai.
There are 2,000 points available for winning the tournament so, in theory, anyone in the top five has a chance of clinching that number one position, depending on strong individual performances and other results going their way.
Here, we look at the key talking points ahead of the tournament.
The man to beat in Dubai this weekend.
The Vienna man heads the leaderboard and deserves to be in with a shout of being crowned European number one based on his overall consistency this season.
He has played more European Tour events than the four other contenders Fleetwood (11), Rahm (16), Lowry (14) and Fitzpatrick (9).
Of course, playing more golf doesn’t mean you should be given a trophy without backing it up with solid results and low scores, but his general story deserves recognition.
Incessant wrist problems ruled him out of eight months of last season, and in May, he was ranked as low as 378 in the world. Fast forward to three wins, one runner-up and two top-5s later, he is now on the brink of a place in the world top 20 – at No23.
Around the Earth Course, he has shown fine form over the years, finishing in T16 in 2014, T17 in 2015, T4 in 2016 and T45 in 2017.
Still, with confidence high on the back of his T3 finish at the Nedbank Challenge last week, Wiesbeger should be full of belief heading into the season finale this weekend.
WHO ARE BERND’S MAIN CHALLENGERS?
What makes this week all the more intriguing is how five players are in with a shout of sealing Race to Dubai glory – and that exclusive European number one spot.
Sitting second, Fleetwood, a Race to Dubai winner back in 2017, ended a 22-month drought to prevail in Sun City last weekend and now arrives in the UAE motivated to finish his campaign on a high. His form around the Earth course is also sharp, with a solid T9 finish back in 2016.
Behind the Englishman in the standings is Rahm.
The Spaniard has won in Ireland and Spain this season, while finishing second in Wentworth and Valderrama.
He has shown searing class around the Dubai course in the past, winning the DP World Tour Championship in 2017 and following it up with a T4 finish last year.
Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, is also a former champion at Jumeirah Golf Estates, having enjoyed a one-shot triumph over Tyrrell Hatton three years ago.
Clinical recent displays in Italy, Shanghai and Sun City should give the Sheffield man the confidence he needs to challenge at the top of the leaderboard.
A crowd favourite, Lowry is a different player this year after winning in Abu Dhabi and the Open Championship, and finishing eighth at the PGA Championship.
Bidding to finish his season on a high, the Offaly man will take confidence from his T2 finish at the DP World Tour Championship in 2017 – a final round 63 among the best scores of the weekend.
MCILROY TO BRING THE CROWDS
The Northern Irishman may be out of contention for a fourth Race to Dubai title, but should be in the mix to top the tournament leaderboard this weekend.
Since this tournament began in 2009, McIlroy has a cumulative score of 129-under par – 30 strokes better than any other player. Francesco Molinari, last year’s Race to Dubai champion, is next best at 99-under par.
According to Justin Ray of the 15th club, he has a combined score of 48-under par on holes 14 through 18 – better than any player in the tournament’s history.
With holes 15-18 considered the hardest at Jumeirah Golf Estates, his calmness and clinical ability at a juncture of the round where some key stars would normally buckle under the pressure highlights his sheer class.
Having won in Shanghai recently – his fourth win of the season, the 30-year-old arrives in Dubai aiming to finish his stunning season on a high.
Although he failed to add to his fourth major titles for a fifth straight year, this is perhaps one of McIlroy’s greatest ever seasons, with 18 top-10 finishes in 23 worldwide starts.
The calibre and consistency of his golf should bode well for 2020.
HOW IS THE DEFENDING DPWTC CHAMP FARING?
The reigning champion saw off the challenge of Patrick Reed and Matt Wallace to win by two shots last season for his first title since the 2016 Masters.
Injuries and a severe loss of form had seen the 32-year-old slip outside the world’s top 450 at one stage in 2018 but he roared back to form to win the European Tour’s season-ending tournament 12 months ago.
Willett, who built on last year’s success by winning at Wentworth in September, will be in the mix again this week as he battles it out against 50 of the world’s best players – all vying for the largest first prize in tournament golf at US$3million.
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