Given that the first prize for this week’s Euro Tour finale is over €900,000, the fact that only two men can still win the Race to Dubai is an impressive measure of Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell’s achievements. World number one Lee Westwood would surely have played a hand were it not for injury, but the rest are way back. Kaymer, advised months ago in this column, leads by just under €300,000, meaning McDowell needs to finish at least third, probably in the first two, to overhaul the German.
This has surely been the finest season in European golf history, with three of the four majors going to players from this tour and several Europeans winning in the States. All bar a couple of expats are here for this extremely lucrative finale, restricted to the top-60 on the money list. With a E7.5M bonus pool reserved for the leading 15, this is a career changing opportunity for the lesser names. Nevertheless, if last year’s inaugural Dubai World Championship is anything to go by, it will be dominated by the obvious candidates. Lee Westwood, producing arguably his finest ever performance, won by six shots on -23, with Rory McIlroy and major champions Padraig Harrington and Geoff Ogilvy all making the top-five.
COURSE AND KEY STATS
Driving distance is obviously a huge asset around this long course, measuring 7.675 yards. All of last year’s top-five ranked in the top-25 for driving distance, suggesting the 20 shortest hitters are at a serious disadvantage.
The Earth Course is more than just a bombers’ track though, as the real key is high-class approach play to large, undulating greens measuring around 12 on the stimp-meter. Westwood won the inaugural event on -23, so a hot putter is also essential. The key stats to follow last year were driving distance, putting average, greens in regulation and birdie conversion.
4pts ew RORY MCILROY @ 12/1 (GENERAL, 13/1 BLUESQ)
Now committed to Europe full-time, McIlroy is unlikely to be playing just a supporting role in next year’s Race to Dubai finale. Indeed, many consider him the man to beat. Due to the emphasis on driving distance and world-class iron play, the Earth Course is tailor-made for McIlroy and last year’s third place was doubtless the first of many high finishes to come in this pivotal event.
3pts ew PAUL CASEY @ 16/1 (GENERAL)
Considering that he was clearly not fully recovered from the rib injury that ruined a strong Race to Dubai charge, 11th place last year represents a promising effort from Casey. Recent long-game performances have been his best since that injury, making the top-six on his last three starts, all amongst elite company in either Fedex Cup or WGC events. He ticks all the right boxes in terms of being a world-class, long-hitter with plenty of Gulf form, including two Abu Dhabi titles.
1pt ew MIGUEL-ANGEL JIMENEZ @ 45/1 (GENERAL)
Jimenez had really taken the eye on his penultimate start, so a missed cut in Hong Kong came as a big surprise. That sort of inconsistency has been typical of his season, which has nonetheless been hugely successful, yielding three titles including the Dubai Desert Classic. It may therefore be sensible to overlook that missed cut, especially given triple last week’s odds.
0.5pt ew JOHAN EDFORS @ 125/1 (GENERAL)
As a huge-hitter with a reputation for shooting very low, Edfors looks a lively outsider. He wasn’t disgraced in 22nd last year, and is probably in better form this time. Edfors is too wild to be consistent, tending to reserve his best for courses like this with plenty of room. He’s enjoyed a fair season, registering nine top-20s including runner-up at the Vivendi Cup in September.
0.5pt ew GARY BOYD @ 125/1 (GENERAL, 150/1 HILLS)
Boyd has been one of the best rookies this year, and isn’t without hopes at huge odds. He’s in great form, registering top-15s on five of his last eight starts, and has gone close to a breakthrough win several times this summer. Furthermore, he ticks all the right stats boxes, ranking fourth for driving distance and seventh for putting average over the past three months.