They think it’s all over – it is now. This season’s European Tour comes to an end on Sunday as the DP World Tour Championship decides the Race to Dubai winner and makes an instant millionaire of another golfer who isn’t one already.
Danny Willett looked to have the R2D title in the bag after his Masters Triumph last April but has gone AWOL since and Open champ Henrik Stenson (already a two-time winner of this event) is ready to step in and pick his pocket if results go his way this week.
FedEx champ Rory McIlroy is in with a squeak of landing consecutive Race to Dubai titles (and his fourth overall) if he wins this weekend in Dubai for the third time. But he’ll also need Willett, Stenson and Alex Noren (a four-time European tour winner this year) to collapse quicker than Manchester United’s title challenge.
Here’s the 6 players you’re backing with Paddy to land the desert booty.
Let everyone know he was still alive last weekend when T3 at the Nedbank Golf Challenge after a season that has left a lot to be desired for the French pro. That finish is South Africa was his best on the European Tour since a T4 at the same venue 12 months earlier and hasn’t set the world alight Stateside either.
Once hailed as the next big thing after two Turkish Open triumphs, a second in the 2014 WGC World Matchplay in Arizona and a starring role alongside Graeme McDowell in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, Dubuisson’s form fluctuates more than Wayne Rooney’s and he can spit the dummy for months on end if his head is right.
On the plus side has finished T13, 3, 2 on his last three visits to the Earth Course and the track clearly suits him. A horse for a course who could still end his season on a high.
2. Andy Sullivan
The chirpy English pro has hit some solid end of season form since finding the Ryder Cup a bit much – despite McIlroy demanding that they played together in the Friday morning foursomes.
Sullivan was just denied by a single stroke Mc Attack in this tournie last year and has put his Team Europe disappointments behind him with two top 5’s in Portugal and South Africa in four events since then.
You usually get what you see with Sullivan and all the signs are he’ll bring his ‘A’ game to the Earth Course.
3. Franceso Molinairi
While describing it as a break-out season for the established pro may be pushing it, the Italian is gracing the leaderboard a LOT more frequently this term with three top 10’s Stateside in 18 visits there complementing an Italian Open win in September (his first in four years here) and a runner-up spot in the Open de France.
Three top 10’s in seven visits to Dubai in November – including when fourth last season – means it’s all systems go for Molinairi this week.
4. Tyrell Hatton
Despite the baking heat and desert back-drop, conditions can get quite windy in the DP World Tour Championship and some decent links form is always a plus.
The reigning Alfred Dunhill Links champion has improved all year and is really starting to fulfil his promise by becoming more consistent on Tour and finishing high up the pecking order in some big ticket events at squeaky bum time.
His links credentials are further backed up by a second-place finish at the Scottish Open (to Alex Noren) and then T5 at the Open Championship to Henrik Stenson.
Just as importantly, Hatton has finished sixth and 13th in his last two visits here, is improving and really starting to fulfil his early promise on Tour.
5. Branden Grace
If it’s links experts you want then it a links expert you’ll get with the South African who bounced back to form last weekend in his homeland as one of a clutch of players to finish T3 behind four-time winner this season, Alex Noren.
Grace looks like he’s targeting getting a first Major on his card as he finished T4 in the USPGA C’ship and T5 in the US Open after disappointing when well fancied (by the PP Blog team if no one else) for the Open Championship.
Usually ends and starts the new season strongly (a run of T8, T4,T4, T5) before a January 2016 win in Qatar last season backed up his third-place berth to Rory McIlroy 12 months ago. Also has another couple of top 10s 6-52-9 among his four starts at the Earth course.
6. Rory McIlroy
Mr. Moneybags. A changed putting grip and a S12m pre-Ryder Cup booty helped lessen McIlroy’s pain this season as he finally bagged the oversized-cheques (Dell Technologies & Tour Championship) he craved Stateside, as well as his foundation-sponsored Irish Open this side of the pond.
His decision to immediately switch to Taylormade clubs after Nike said they were moth-balling their production line also means he gets a three-month run at least getting ready for next season’s Masters – the one Major to still elude him.
A dual winner of this competition – where he has yet to finish outside the top 12 in seven starts – he’s rightly the fav to win this weekend but needs other contenders to drop away if he’s to be R2D champ. Again.