The 2009 European Tour reaches its climax this week with the Dubai World Championship on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Rory McIlroy heads the standings but Lee Westwood is hot on his heels.
Four players – McIlroy, Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Ross Fisher are still in with a shout of claiming the inaugural Race to Dubai crown and the $1,500,000 bonus. Rory McIlroy takes a lead of €130,000 over Lee Westwood into the event, but with €830,000 up for grabs for the winner of this event, things could still change dramatically.
If McIlroy, Westwood or Kaymer wins the Dubai World Championship they will take the Race to Dubai title no matter where the other protagonists finish. If Fisher wins then either McIlroy or Westwood could still take the number 1 spot by finishing second.
At just 20-years-old, Rory McIlroy is bidding to become the youngest European number 1 since Seve Ballesteros achieved the feat as a 19-year-old in 1976. He’s in the strongest position as he just has to finish ahead of his three rivals to win. But the young Northern Irishman is hoping for better than that.
“I will still be trying to win the Dubai World Championship,” he said. “I won’t be trying to protect a lead or finish ahead of this guy or that guy. I want to win. If I win it will take care of everything.”
Designed by Greg Norman, the Earth Course at Jumeirah Estates is a long and challenging track designed to test the world’s best players. With water, trees and strategic bunkering, the layout demands accuracy as well as length from the tee while difficult green complexes will fully examine the professionals’ short game prowess.
Venue: Earth Course, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai
Date: November 19-22
Course stats: par 72, 7,675 yards
Purse: €5,015,000 Winner: €830,675
Defending Champion: Inaugural event
Thursday 19 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8am
Friday 20 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8am
Saturday 21 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8am
Sunday 22 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8am
All eyes will be on the four men who can still take the Race to Dubai crown – McIlroy, Westwood, Kaymer and Fisher. But, the pressure of ending the season as European Number 1 could affect their performances this week. Also worth looking out for are:
Ian Poulter – The Englishman is enjoying a solid run of for and has climbed into the top-10 in the Race to Dubai despite only playing 14 events.
Sergio Garcia – The Spaniard will be looking to sign off a slightly disappointing season on a high.
Simon Dyson – Another player who’s been showing good form in recent weeks – he’s recorded two victories and three further top-10 finishes in his last nine tournament starts.
Key hole: 18th. A long par 5 with water to the right from the tee and bunkers to the left. The second shot requires a decision – the fairway is split in two and you can either play to a generous landing area on the left leaving a longer and more difficult third, or go to the narrow lay-up area on the right leaving a more straightforward pitch. It’s a great tactical challenge.
Skills required: Finishing. The last four holes of the Earth Course will be particularly testing. Measuring over 1,700 yards of golf, they’ve been described as a “golden mile.” A short risk/reward par 4 then a very tough long par 4 where water lurks right followed by a testing par 3 to an island green and culminating with a brutish par 5 that stretches to over 600 yards. Negotiating these closing holes will be the key to success around the Earth Course.