It’s the time of year when the world’s leading golfers heads to Dubai to compete in the eighth and final Rolex Series tournament of the season.
The DP Championship, which will host 60 competitors in a thrilling season-ending event, also marks the culmination of the 2018 Race to Dubai.
Last year’s iteration was certainly exciting, as Tommy Fleetwood held off a spirited challenge by Justin Rose to clinch the Race to Dubai title. However, it was Spaniard Jon Rahm who produced a masterful display to walk away with the DP Championship. But who can we expect to be competing for the ultimate glory?
All Eyes on Fleetwood and Molinari
While any one of the 60 contenders has the potential to win the DP World Championship, only a select few can clinch the Race to Dubai and finish the season as European Number One.
This is why all eyes will be on last year’s winners Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, with these two set to go toe-to-toe in a bid to secure the ultimate glory.
These two stars are currently separated by 1,025,166 points in the Race to Dubai rankings, with the Italian out in front and hoping to secure his very first end of season title.
They’re certainly two of the most consistent players on tour and they combined brilliantly during the Ryder Cup out the Americans to the sword. Fans even awarded the affectionate nickname Moliwood during Europe’s impressive 17.5–10.5 win, where he won four points from four during a memorable tournament.
Molinari certainly has the edge in this season’s race, however, with the 36-year old even becoming the first ever Italian to win a major after his victory at the 142nd Open Championship.
He also secured a maiden Rolex Series title at the BMW PGA Championship, and he’ll certainly start as the favourite to top the European rankings.
Fleetwood has form in the Race to Dubai, while he has also enjoyed a stellar year that has seen him in good stead. He has secured an impressive total of eight top-10 finishes this season, including a runners-up birth at the U.S. Open and victory in defence of his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
He is also looking to become the first player since Rory McIlroy in 2014 and 2015 to top the Race to Dubai in successive seasons. If this doesn’t inspire him to hit his best form, we don’t know what will.
Are there any Other Potential Winners in the Field?
The short answer is no, with even second place Fleetwood only retaining an outside chance of topping Molinari in the Race to Dubai.
Third place Justin Rose is nearly 1.3 million points behind the Italian, and while he could still pip Fleetwood into second, it would take some performance from the Brit to actually top the rankings.
There’s still all to play for, with the eighth and final Rolex Series event representing a coveted title with a significant prize fund. Each of these events carries a winner’s cheque of at least $7 million, with the DP World Championship no exception to this rule.
This tournament will also feature six of the seven winners from this series in 2018, namely Russell Knox, Alex Noren, Thorbjørn Olesen, Brandon Stone, Lee Westwood and Molinari himself.
With perennial contenders such as McIlroy and Jon Rahm, who are sixth and 13th in the Race to Dubai respectively, also competing in Dubai, we’re sure to see an extremely keenly contested open tournament.
Could we see a 10th Anniversary win for Westwood?
Interestingly, next week at Jumeirah Golf Estates is set to be even more exciting than usual, with the DP World Tour Championship celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Since its first appearance on the European Tour’s International Schedule back in 2009, only three players have appeared in every edition – Molinari, Martin Kayment and Lee Westwood. These three will all line up for their 10th start next week, with Westwood having the distinction of winning the maiden title 10 years ago.
Back then, the Englishman shot a final round 64 to seal victory. There’s no doubt that a follow-up win here would mark the best possible anniversary celebration.
Coincidently, he also shot a similarly stunning last round at the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week, landing his first European Tour title in four years and catapulting himself towards the top 10 of the Race to Dubai.
With this in mind, he should not be discounted here, particularly as the DP World Tour Championship is always keenly contested and notoriously hard to predict. When it comes to the Race to Dubai, however, it would take something special to prevent the consistent and unflappable Molinari from retaining the number one European ranking.