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Who Won the World Golf Championships and How Will it Affect Dubai?

November 06, 2016

- Grant Whittington

With all eyes on the fast-approaching, season finale The Race to Dubai, it is all too easy to lose focus on the events remaining in the golfing calendar. Take the recent World Golf Championships, for example, which saw matchplay of the highest calibre and had a direct impact on the top 60 players who will be automatically eligible to compete in Dubai Final Series.

After a tight three rounds, the tournament was deservedly won by Hideki Matsuyama, who subsequently became the first Asian competitor to lift the coveted trophy. He also came within three strokes of the 72-hole record score at Sheshan International course, firing a stunning 66 in the final round and finishing seven shots clear on an incredible 23 under par.

The Winners and Losers and What it Means for Dubai

Trailing in second place was the in-form Henrik Stenson (-16), who recent performances and consistency have earmarked him as the favourite for the Dubai finale at 17/50 with Bwin. American Daniel Berger (-16) trailed in third, while Irishman Rory McIlroy finished eight behind on 15 under par in fourth. All three of these players carded scores that would have been good enough to win in any other year, so while they can be satisfied with their performance they will be disappointed not to have lifted the title.

Looking forward, the win lifted Matasuyama to sixth in the updated world rankings, assuring him a spot on the tee in the Dubai finale. Ulsterman McIlroy, who also carded an impressive 66 in the final round to tie with American Bill Haas, has gained one placed and moved to second in the overall rankings. In doing so, he built some momentum ahead of Dubai and distinguished himself as one of the favourites alongside Stenson.

Who Will Prevail in the Race to Dubai?

The so-called Race of Dubai now includes three instead of four events, starting with the Turkish Airlines Open and the iconic Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa. At this stage, the top 60 in the Race to Dubai standing head to the city and compete in the DP World Tour Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Emirates, with many of these places having already been secured by the game’s elite. The prize at the end of the series is also worth fighting for, as the victorious players will earn a huge cheque, the coveted Harry Vardon Trophy as Europe’s premier golfer and an automatic, seven-year membership for the tour.

Interestingly, this is a tournament format that seems to suit McIlroy, so his positive if unsuccessful outing at the World Golf Championships in China may give him a critical edge in Dubai. The Ulsterman has won three of the last four European Tour wins, including back-to-back victories in 2014 and 2015. Last year, he won the season-ending event by a single stroke with Andy Sullivan, pipping the excellent Danny Willett to the overall title in the process.

Given this, and McIlroy’s stellar performance in the final round of the World Golf Championship, he may well start the series finale as narrow favourite.

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