The 2015 European Tour reaches a climax this week with the DP World Tour Championship. Henrik Stenson defends and seven players could win the Race to Dubai.

The 2015 European Tour reaches a climax this week with the DP World Tour Championship. Henrik Stenson defends and seven players could win the Race to Dubai.

Rory McIlroy heads into the tournament with the slenderest of leads on the Race to Dubai standings. The Northern Irishman is just 1,600 points in front of England’s Danny Willett.

The other players who could be crowned European Tour Number 1 at the end of this event are: Justin Rose, Shane Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, who all need to finish second or better in Dubai, and Byeong-Hun An, who needs to finish first.

The top-60 players on the Race to Dubai standings will tee it up this week, although it looks at this stage as though Stephen Gallacher in 61st place will make it in, as Sergio Garcia is not going to play.

Other than topping the points list at the end of this week, another battle is the one to make it into the top-15 and so secure a share of the $5 million Race to Dubai bonus pool. Patrick Reed is currently 15th with Henrik Stenson breathing down his neck in 16th place.

Then there’s the question of the Ryder Cup qualification race – significant points will be available this week and a good finish could give a player a major boost in the standings. Kristoffer Broberg heads the European points list after his victory last week.

Also to be decided is the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award. Byeong-hun An, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Anirban Lahiri are all in the running. An was the winner of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, Fitzpatrick won the British Masters at Woburn and Lahiri has won twice on the circuit during 2015.

This will be the seventh running of this event. First held in 2009, it’s always taken place over Jumeirah Golf Estates Earth course. The first edition was won by Lee Westwood and, since then, Robert Karlsson, Alvaro Quiros, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson have been champions. Last year Stenson successfully defended his title in a thrilling tournament. The Swede held off Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Victor Dubuisson to take the title for a third time. Stenson will be aiming for a hat-trick this time out.

Greg Norman’s excellent design for the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates drew influence from the great parkland courses of Europe and North America. The layout features sprawling white bunkers, lakes and creeks, plus an abundance of indigenous flora. This is an extremely natural feeling course, blending beautifully into the surrounding environment.

The track is always presented in immaculate condition with wonderfully rolling fairways and contoured green complexes and it always receives high praise from the players.

The weather looks typically clear for the week with warm temperatures and sunshine predicted.

Venue: Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai, UAE
Date: Nov 19-22
Course stats: par 72, 7,675 yards
Purse: $8,000,000
Defending Champion: Henrik Stenson (-16)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 19 – Sky Sports 4 from 8am
Friday 20– Sky Sports 4 from 8am
Saturday 21 – Sky Sports 4 from 8am
Sunday 22 – Sky Sports 4 from 7.30am

Player watch:
Henrik Stenson – The Swede has won this tournament in each of the last two seasons so he clearly loves the course. He was also tied third last week in the BMW Masters so is on form coming into the event. Look out!

Henrik Stenson slow-motion swing sequence:

Justin Rose – He’ll still be harbouring ambitions of winning the Race to Dubai and he’s returning to a course he’s enjoyed success on before. He was second last year and second in 2012. He recently won in Hong Kong. If he can find his putting form this week, he’ll contend.

Victor Dubuisson – Also second in this event last year, Dubuisson won three weeks ago in Turkey. He played some good golf in the BMW Masters but was let down, at times, by his putting. Like Rose, if he can find something on the greens this week, he’ll be there or thereabouts.

Key hole: 18th. A long par 5 (over 600 yards) 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 are particularly testing. The 15th is a short yet strategically demanding par 4, then comes a tough and long par 4 where water lurks right, the 17th is an exciting par 3 where the players fire to an island green, the round culminates with the challenging par 5 as described above. Negotiating these closing holes is the key to success around the Earth Course.