This is effectively a play-off to see who gets bragging rights as “Europe’s best golfer” for 2019. Right now three-time winner Bernd Wiesberger leads the field, from Tommy Fleetwood and Jon Rahm.
So it’s all to play for in Dubai this week.
Like the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour, this is the conclusion of a season-long accumulation of prize-money and ranking points (known as the “Race To Dubai”). The event, first held in 2009, took over from the previous Order of Merit. What we see this week in the Middle East is the great and the good of the European Tour in what is a select tournament contested by just 60 players where Rory McIlroy is the 4/1 favourite.
It all happens on the Jumeirah Golf Estates “Earth” course. This is a monster 7,675 yard par 72. Located in Dubai, it’s a desert venue which has been home to this event since 2009. There are 99 bunkers spread across this Greg Norman designed course, and there’s also more than the odd drop of water to test the players with several hazards dotted about the layout. That said, scoring can be good when conditions allow, with around 15-under to 20-under-par forecast as this week’s winning total.
72-Hole Record – 263, Henrik Stenson (2013) and the 18-Hole Record – 62, Justin Rose (2012)
Past Winners – Danny Willett (2018), Jon Rahm (2017), Matthew Fitzpatrick (2016), Rory McIlroy (2015), Henrik Stenson (2014).
If you want some Winter sun, get yourself to Dubai! The mercury will hit the high 80s all through the week, rainfall is predicted to be zero and the winds, highest on Day 1 at around 15-20mph, shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the players.
Three bets ranging from 20/1 to 50/1:
Matthew Fitzpatrick – “I’m more than happy to stick with a player when he’s in decent nick and is playing a run of tournaments where he has previous form. Fitz played good golf for most of last week in South Africa, he was just a bit loose in the key areas that make the difference between a Top 3 finish as opposed to a Top 10. But as a past winner at the Earth Course, if he can just tighten up his game by a few percent, there’s no reason why he can’t challenge. The top of the market is strong, and Rory will be a tough nut to crack, but the 20’s on offer, added to the EW terms in what is a small field, swing it towards Fitzpatrick. He’s actually not without a chance of winning the Road To Dubai himself, but in order to do this he must win this week. So there’s more incentive for this multiple winner to lay down a serious challenge on a course where he has proven form.”
Kurt Kitayama – “The American is embroiled in the race to become rookie of the year, which features another player I like a lot, Robert MacIntyre. What Kitayama has going for him are two tournament wins already this year, in Oman and Mauritius. Even if both these events can’t be classed a high-quality, an ability to win, at whatever level, is not to be ignored. What’s more a recent run of form has seen him finish 3rd (Italian Open), 4th (French Open) and 2nd (Turkish Airlines). He’s undoubtedly a quality player, and whilst a 30th place finish last week at the Nedbank wasn’t great, and this is his debut in Dubai, his length off the tee (he’s 5th for Driving Distance) will be a huge asset here. Spurred on to perform well, while many are here this week just to collect some extra prize-money, Kitayama is worth an interest on a course that should suit.”
Victor Perez – “I’m continually harping on about how Perez consistently tops the Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green rankings and last time out in Turkey, when we backed him, he once again did exactly. Perez is a beast off the tee and that’s a huge advantage on this vast 7,700 yard layout which certainly favours the bigger hitters. This will be Perez’s debut here this week but that’s been the case at the majority of events for him this year and he’s played most extremely well. Confidence couldn’t be higher coming here off the back of a play-off loss in Turkey, a 4th place finish at the WGC-HSBC in China and the Alfred Dunhill Links win just a couple of months ago. Perez is playing superb golf right now and we need to keep backing this potential superstar while the prices on offer are still relatively big.”