DP World Tour Championship: Top contenders

Sport360 staff 08:12 17/11/2016
Contenders: Stenson, Willett, McIlroy, Noren and Pieters.

Henrik Stenson (SWE)

World ranking: 4

Race to Dubai position: 1

DPWTC results: T59-1-1-T7-DNP-T24-T23

Best finishes in 2016: Winner (Open Championship, BMW International Open), second three times, including Olympics

Top-10s in 2016: 11

Stenson’s mastery on the Earth course is well known. He had a strangely off year in 2015, but is now coming back fresh and in good form. The Swede will be favourite to hold on to his Race to Dubai position. His crisp iron-play is a huge advantage on this course.

Danny Willett (ENG)

World ranking: 11

Race to Dubai position: 2

DPWTC results: T4-T21-DNP-T26-DNP-T55-T58

Best finishes in 2016: Winner (Masters, Omega Dubai Desert Classic), Second (Italian Open)

Top-10s in 2016: 5

A tied 11th place in last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge seems to have rejuvenated the 29-year-old. But like he did last year when trailing Rory McIlroy, expect the Sheffield man to fight tooth and nail until the last putt has dropped.

Rory McIlroy (NIR)

World ranking: 2

Race to Dubai position: 4

DPWTC results: 1-2-T5-1-T11-T5-3

Best finishes in 2016:Winner (DDF Irish Open, Deutsche Bank Championship, Tour Championship)

Top-10s in 2016: 13

How good is the 27-year-old on this golf course? In 28 career rounds, his worst score on Earth is an even-par 72. Having taken the last two week’s off, he comes to the course fresh. Expect his driver to continue to cause mayhem and help him to some more low scores.

Alex Noren (SWE)

World ranking: 9

Race to Dubai position: 3

DPWTC results: T38-DNP-DNP-T39-T37-DNP-T6

Best finishes in 2016: Winner (Nedbank Challenge, British Masters, European Masters, Scottish Open)

Top-10s in 2016: 8

Once struggling with his career as he tried to get over a debilitating back injury, followed by tendonitis in both wrists, Noren is now proving to be a pain for the rest of the field. His hard work is paying off as he has won four titles in his last 11 starts and is hungry for more.

Thomas Pieters (BEL)

World ranking: 44

Race to Dubai position: 22

DPWTC results: T22-DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP

Best finishes in 2016: Winner (Made in Denmark), second (Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Czech Masters)

Top-10s in 2016: 5

Darren Clarke benefitted from his faith in the young Belgian during the Ryder Cup, and he will have plenty of support here. This is only his second DPWTC, but the 23-year-old, who hits the ball a country mile, has the game to bring the golf course to its knees.

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DP World Tour Champs: More than just the Race to Dubai at stake

Joy Chakravarty 07:24 17/11/2016
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Still gunning for prizes: Rory McIlroy, Jeunghun Wang and Lee Westwood.

The DP World Tour Championship, being the season-ending champion of the European Tour, it is easy to understand why the focus is mostly on the players in contention for the Race to Dubai.

The Harry Vardon Trophy is one of the most respected possessions in European golf. It signifies that a golfer has played well throughout the season to claim the honour of being called the Tour’s No. 1 player for the whole of next season.

That part of the Race to Dubai is now restricted to four players – Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett, Alex Noren and Rory McIlroy. But there are so many more interesting storylines in the $8 million tournament that gets underway at the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates from today…

Race to be top rookie

The battle to get their name on the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year is equally important. It also signifies the health of the Tour when you have more rookies making it to the season-ending championship.

This year, there are five players in the race, led by Korean sensation Jeunghun Wang who is 15th in the Race to Dubai and the favourite to follow in the footsteps of his compatriot and 2015 winner Byeong Hun An.

Leading Light: Jeunghun Wang.

Leading Light: Jeunghun Wang.

The 21-year-old Wang is a multiple champion on the Tour, having won twice already.

The other four players in the fray are China’s Li Haotong (19th), Korea’s Soomin Lee (40th), South Africa’s Brandon Stone at 48th, and the fast-charging Ricardo Gouveia of Portugal (53). It’s going to be a close battle between the top-two.

Wang was leading last week in South Africa before he was usurped by Alex Noren on the final day, but he did finish second. Li played phenomenally well to finish tied second the week earlier in Turkey.

Race for Bonus Pool

The Bonus Pool is an attractive $5 million, divided among the top-10 players on the Race to Dubai. The winner gets $1.25m, but the even the 10th placed player pockets a hefty cheque of $250,000.

As of now, even the 50th ranked player can qualify for the Bonus Pool with a win. And such established players as Bernd Wiesberger, Lee Westwood, Andy Sullivan and Martin Kaymer are ranked 11-14, just outside the top 10 and in with a great chance to make a big move with a good finish.

Race to the world top 50

With the DP World Tour Championship being the last of the big events for the year, many players who are currently outside the top- 50 in the world rankings would be eyeing a big push to ensure they get into the elite bracket of golf.

A top-50 ranking at the end of the year qualifies players for most majors and World Golf Championship events.

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#360view: DPWTC the flagship event of the European Tour

Joy Chakravarty 01:53 17/11/2016
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The eyes of the golfing world will be on the DP World Tour Championship this week.

There should be no doubt that the season-ending tournament has become the flagship event of the European Tour.

Year after year, it has delivered one humdinger performance after another. The Race to Dubai system has also proved to be fair, with the top-ranked European Tour stars prevailing in the end, unlike the fickleness of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup.

And once again, it seems appropriate that the battle for the European No1 honour will be fought between the two major champions who are part of the Tour (Masters winner Danny Willett and Open champion Henrik Stenson), the highest ranked European player in the world (Rory McIlroy) and the hottest European player on the planet (Alex Noren).

Then there is also a small matter of a $1.33 million winner’s cheque that goes to the tournament champion.

The action starts on Thursday on the Earth course, and it will surely be fascinating. But an equally-discussed topic on the golf course is the recent announcement by the European Tour on the Rolex Series – a bouquet of seven premium tournaments that will have a minimum of $7 million prize money this season.

Not only will these events be cash-rich, they will also be heavily marketed and promoted by the European Tour in association with umbrella sponsor Rolex.

The players are obviously ecstatic – who doesn’t like the possibility of a significant pay rise? However, it is going to create a few scheduling issues for the top stars.

The good thing about the events is that they are slotted in two particular time periods – before the Open Championship and after the FedEx Cup. That should help attract more European, as well as American, players playing on the PGA Tour.

It is also sensible on part of the Tour that they haven’t introduced any ‘mandatory’ numbers for the members to participate, which was a big bone of contention when the Final Series was first introduced. They just want to make the product better and expect a buy-in from the players, instead of forcing it on them.

Even more thoughtful was the creation of Access List – a separate money list that would not include earnings from the Rolex Series events, the Masters, the PGA Championship and the World Golf Championship events.

Because these events carry a lot of prize money, most players from the lower qualification categories stand no chance of competing against them on the Race to Dubai. One top-10 finish would earn them a lot more than the several top-five finishes on the smaller events.

The rank and file of the European Tour, which has mostly remained a neglected bunch, will gain a lot from this. The top-10 players from the Access List will secure their playing privileges for the next season.

And unlike some of the comments that I saw saying this new system was becoming too convoluted and complex – it really isn’t. The Rolex Series events are like any other normal event on the Tour, except for the fact that they will benefit from extra promotion through TV and other digital platforms.

You’ve got to hand it to Keith Pelley. The European Tour Chief Executive is fast turning his vision into reality, and there is no mistaking the vitality around the Tour.

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