Dubai, By Josh Charles (AFP)
World number one Rory McIlroy may have already won the Race to Dubai crown, but there is a lot at stake this week at the $8 million DP World Tour Championship, which starts at the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates Thursday.
The top-60 players on the European Tour’s year-long Race to Dubai standings have qualified for the season-ending tournament, and that includes the four Europeans in the top-10 of the world rankings –- McIlroy, number four Henrik Stenson, number six Sergio Garcia and number seven Justin Rose.
McIlroy, who won two majors among his four titles this year, is leading the Race to Dubai by 2,726,514 points, which means his position on top is insurmountable with only 1,666,600 points on offer to the winner this week.
While that assured him of the lion’s share of the bonus pool ($1.25 million out of $5 million), there is a chance for someone among the 59 other players to win the tournament and walk away with a cheque of $2.13 million ($1.33million for the winner of the tournament and an $800,000 bonus for finishing second in the Race to Dubai) on Sunday evening.
Stenson is the defending champion, having won both the tournament and the Race to Dubai last year.
The Swede, who became a father for the third time last month, has sweet memories from last year, when he put together a masterclass of ball striking, hitting 68 out of 72 greens in regulation and winning the title by six shots with a four-day tally of 25-under par.
And the 38-year-old, who is yet to win a tournament this year despite consistent display, said: “It’s good to be back. Of course, last year was very special, and, well, I know it can’t be as special this year because Rory has already won the overall race.
“But I can make it a very special week for myself by playing well here and hopefully give myself a chance to win.
“I haven’t defended a title as yet in my career, so I couldn’t think of a much better place to do it than here this week.”
Stenson is coming into the tournament after a final-round 64 secured him a third place finish in Turkey last week.
Stenson’s neighbor in Orlando, Ian Poulter, who finished second in Turkey, was also hoping his revival in form would lead to a win on a course where he has already finished runner-up twice.
The 38-year-old Englishman, who lost to Stenson last year, recently switched his equipment, and was delighted how well he had adjusted to his new clubs.
Poulter, who was ranked 64th in the Race to Dubai a couple of weeks ago and not assured of a place this week, has moved to number 12 with back-to-back top-10 finishes, and said: “Obviously, last week was a good week.
“Slightly disappointing not to finish the job off but that’s happened the last couple of weeks.
“The pleasing thing is the new equipment that’s gone in and I’ve settled into it very quickly, which potentially might have been a concern to a few people.
“But I felt comfortable for the seven days I had with the equipment before coming on this four‑week stretch.
“I am coming into a golf course that I like and I’ve had good success here, being pipped by Robert Karlsson in the playoff and obviously Henrik last year.
“I like the golf course. I like the setup, and hopefully we can go one better.”