It is that time of the year when spoils are claimed and a champion is born. We are, most definitely, right down to the wire.
This season’s quest for the Race to Dubai title reaches its climax this week with the DP World Tour Championship set to determine the overall victor on this year’s European Tour money list.
The field has been whittled down to the top 60 players in the standings, and many of those on show will have one eye on securing a slice of the mouth-watering $7.5 million bonus pool on offer to the top 15 on Tour.
Alex Noren’s six-stroke win at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa has seen a second Swede enter the top three. We could now conceivably see any of four men crowned Tour champion this year.
Course: Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates
This is the eighth time the par-72, 7,675-yard Earth Course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates facility has hosted the season-ending tournament since the introduction of the Race to Dubai model.
Designed by the great Greg Norman, the Earth Course is one of two exceptional golfing tests housed at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai. The Great White Shark took inspiration from some of the very best parkland courses in Europe and North America to create a course which is both challenging and fair.
Over 3,500 trees, numerous water hazards and more than 100 bunkers will demand every player’s focus on each and every shot. A winner of the DP World Tour Championship will have very much earned their corn.
Rory McIlroy put together a flawless final-round 66 to take the event title in 2015 and, with it, his third Race to Dubai crown in four years. The Northern Irishman’s first came back in 2012, the same season he managed to post a record eight-stroke win at Kiawah Island in the PGA Championship.
Last year, over 1 million points separated McIlroy from his nearest rival, Danny Willett, and had been accumulated over the course of just 12 events.
Henrik Stenson is in a position of strength as things stand, and it may well be that the Earth Course is well suited to the big Swede’s game, as past performance has indicated.
Danny Willett seems to be scrambling for the finish line after a sparkling start to the year but one last, final push could see him sitting atop the final standings come Sunday evening.
Alex Noren has put himself firmly in the mix with an impressive win last week. Sun City played host to Noren’s fourth win of 2016, and he has amassed a colossal £2.6 million in earnings this year. Two years ago he scraped together just £5,000.
McIlroy is chasing a hat trick of consecutive Race to Dubai wins and will come to Jumierah Golf Estates with at least a puncher's chance of closing 2016 as champion of the European Tour. Having swerved both the Turkish Airlines Open and the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the Northern Irishman may have expected his rivals to have already removed him from the discussion altogether.
Choosing a winner of the Race to Dubai is not easy. Picking a DP World Tour Championship tournament victor is even trickier.
There should be no staking of lives (proverbial or otherwise) on any of these guys. We could be looking at any of the four being at the head of affairs as the season closes.
Stenson is the obvious choice but, while he faces an uphill task, Rory is by no means out of it in fourth place.