This will be the 12th time this course has hosted the event and the winners list from previous years is very impressive, with Rory McIIroy, Jon Rahm and Henrik Stenson all having won here twice within the last eight years.
The Race to Dubai title itself looks to be in the hands of American Patrick Reed who leads by approximately 500 points from Tommy Fleetwood. In 3rd spot is another American, Collin Morikawa who will be making his tournament debut, whilst in 4th spot is European tour veteran Lee Westwood who is chasing a 2nd Race to Dubai title. However, with the money on offer this week there will be many permutations as to who can claim the season’s title.
The tournament itself looks to be a great betting heat. The players will go out in order of their position in the Race to Dubai for round 1 (with #1 and #2 in the final 2-Ball) and after that in leader board order for the final three rounds, with no cut made in the tournament.
The course itself is designed by Australian golfing legend Greg Norman and for those not familiar with the course it features two cracking finishing holes, the par-3 17th surrounded by water and the par-5 18th featuring a creek running right up the middle of the hole all the way up to the green. Players have multiple options in-play so expect to see anything from a 3 to a double figures score here.
Winning scores here normally get close to -20 so players are going to need to take advantage of the 4 par-5s. Last week the European Tour held an event on the sister course to this week’s event so the players that played here may hold a small advantage, having acclimatised and to also to have been living inside the Covid ‘bubble’.
To Win Only
Wallace burst onto the golfing scene a couple of years ago however at the back end of last year suffered a real dip in form. Caddy changes and swing changes were taking place, but it looks like he’s back to his best and a win must be close. Tied 2nd last week on the sister course to this week’s course is potentially a great warm up for this week. 2nd here in 2018 when he was riding high in confidence, last year’s T28 was no great surprise as he was out of form. Another good form guide is the Dubai Desert Classic where Wallace was 2nd in 2018. In October Wallace had control of the Scottish Championship until a bad 4th round let the tournament slip away. Earlier in the summer a 4th place in the Memorial Tournament in Ohio against a world class field showcased his ability. Wallace currently sits #51 in the World rankings which is important, as the top 50 at the end of the year (this is the last event) get invites to the US Masters in April as well as other big events. So Matt knows he needs to improve on this to crack the top 50, another incentive for a big week. Expect him to be in contention come Sunday.
To Win Only
Bezuidenhout is running hot, coming off back-to-back wins in South Africa and now sits 5th in the Race to Dubai season rankings. 12th last year on his debut in this event, it was only a bad final round of 73 that cost Bezuidenhout a probable place. A 2nd place in the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year when caught on the line by Lucas Herbert again shows his liking for golf in this part of the world. Ranked 4th on Strokes Gained Putting on the European Tour this season will hold him in good stead on a course where plenty of birdies will be needed. Having won back to back and racing to 5th in the season’s rankings he now has the possibility of a bumper pay out by finishing on top, and this will be the spur for him not to take his foot off the pedal.
For my third pick I’m going to take a punt on Thomas Detry. Detry is yet to win on the European Tour but in my mind it’s more a question of when rather than if. The talented young Belgian has finished 2nd twice since play resumed from lockdown plus a 10th and a 4th in Cyprus early in November, showing that his game is in good order. Detry has competed twice in this final event of the year in Dubai finishing midfield in 28th and 29th. However, on both occasions he was well placed for 3 rounds before bad 4th rounds moved him down the leader board. Detry is 3rd on Stroke Average this year and 4th on Strokes Gained. Long off the tee and able to take full advantage of the par-5s and driveable par-4s, it’s time Detry took the step up into the winner’s enclosure. With plenty of big names playing this week the pressure and focus will not be on him and hopefully come Sunday he’s right up there.