DP World Tour Championship: Three Things to Watch

The European Tour concludes its season spanning 46 tournaments and 25 countries this week in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship

Mandatory Credit: Porter Binks-USA TODAY Sports

The European Tour season comes to a close this weekend at the final of three Race to Dubai Final Series events, the DP World Tour Championship. The tour’s top 60 points-earners will vie for the distinctive scepter trophy at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Some of the tour’s big names playing on the six-year-old Greg Norman design “Earth” makes for stunning golf and views in what amounts to be one of the final relevant, non-exhibition stroke play tournaments worldwide until January.

Click through to check out three things to watch this weekend in the European Tour finale.

Sep 25, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Rory McIlroy celebrates with the FedEx Cup Trophy and the Tour Championship Trophy after the final playoff round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

A high finish from Henrik Stenson will likely be enough to fend off his three nearest chasers for the Race to Dubai title.

Rory McIlroy is the defending tournament and Race to Dubai champion. Sitting at No. 4 in the RtD standings, he enters as one of the favorites to win the tournament in hopes of recording his third career “Dubai Double” of winning both the tournament and the series in one fell swoop. He’ll need a win and plenty of help to leap Alex Noren, Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson ahead of him in the RtD points race.

Pulling it off would add to McIlroy’s majorless, but improving 2016. It would be particularly impressive after he opted out of the previous two Final Series events.

The world No. 2 won the PGA Tour’s 2015-2016 FedEx Cup Playoffs in September and despite playing in just 14 European Tour events (fewest of anyone in the RtD top 15), McIlroy has an outside chance to reign on both tours after this week.

Stenson stands in his way as the heavy favorite. The Swede can cap off his career year with an RtD title automatically with a win this week. Anything less cracks open the door for the other three still remaining with a mathematical shot, though anything around a top-10 finish will likely be enough to clinch it for Stenson. Below are a few possible scenarios and permutations courtesy of the European Tour:

• For McIlroy to win the Race to Dubai: Win tournament, Stenson finishes outside the top 45, Willett outside the top five and Noren outside the top two.

• For Noren to win the RtD, minimum top two finish. Stenson can still win the RtD by finishing second if Noren wins.

• If Noren finishes second, Stenson needs to finish outside the top eight and Willett outside the top two for Noren to win the RtD.

• If Willett finishes fourth, Stenson needs to finish inside the top 30 to stay ahead of him.

• If Willett finishes third, Stenson needs a top nine finish to remain ahead of him in the race.

• If Willett finishes second, he wins the Race to Dubai if Stenson finishes outside the top two and Noren does not win.

• If Willett wins the tournament, he wins the Race to Dubai regardless of other results.

• Stenson wins the RtD if none of the above scenarios unfold.

Olympics: Golf-Men

All four rookies in the field could walk away with Rookie of the Year honors with a strong showing this week.

Golf fans are quickly getting to know youngsters like Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm who are cutting their teeth on the PGA Tour, but some of the top fresh talent can be found in Europe.

Four of the 60 teeing it up this week are rookies all very much in the mix to win the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year honors, given to the highest finisher in the Race to Dubai rankings.

Jeunghun Wang, a 21-year-old from South Korea, almost ended the discussion last week at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. He shot a 64 on Saturday to build a three-shot lead, only to falter with a 75 to take runner-up honors and open the door for eventual champion, Alex Noren. Wang still moved up 19 spots inside the coveted top 15 (see the next slide for why that matters) to No. 15 in the RtD ranking. Also in May at the Trophee Hassan II in a playoff, Wang became the youngest on Tour to win since Matteo Manassero in 2012.

He owns a second win at the Mauritius Open held in May.

Next, is Li Haotong, who had a chance of his own to put his stamp on the ROY race when he tied for second two weeks ago at the Turkish Airlines Open. At No. 19, he’s just a stone’s throw from Wang. Haotong’s season was highlighted by a win at the Volvo China Open in his home country in May.

Soomin Lee, a 23-year-old from South Korea, follows at No. 40. He was the leading rookie until Wang’s and Haotong’s recent high finishes. Lee picked up his first and only win in wire-to-wire fashion edging out the next man on this list to win in April at the Shenzhen International.

The fourth and final rook is Brandon Stone. The South African won his first event of 2016 in his home country at the BMW SA Open in January and has six top-10s this year, best among rookies. At No. 48, anything less than a win may not cut it for the 23-year-old University of Texas grad.

Even if the race was decided by a vote, like on the PGA Tour, rather than ranking, it’s easy to see that this week will do a lot to shape the ROY race.

Jun 21, 2015; University Place, WA, USA; Joost Luiten hits his tee shot on the 1st hole in the final round of the 2015 U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of low scores are on tap at the Greg Norman-designed “Earth” course

If history is any indicator, this tournament should have some fireworks.

Five of the last six editions at the Greg Norman-designed “Earth” course have resulted in playoff victories or by two or fewer strokes in regulation. The gettable, parkland style course has also allowed for some low scores. Since 2009, the average winning score has been 20-under-par. Stenson, who’s won twice here back-to-back in 2013 and 2014, set the tournament record when he went 25 deep for a six-stroke romp in ’13.

Even for those who don’t find themselves in contention for the title, there’s still something to play for to make it into the coveted top 15 in the Race to Dubai rankings.

Those top golfers share a bonus pool of $7.5 million with $1.5 million headed the winner’s way. All players get prize money in the no-cut event, but heading into the holidays with some extra cash is surely on the minds of all 60 who could all crack the top 15 if things fall their way this week. No. 16 Joost Luiten, pictured above, is the first bubble boy this week sitting 7,000 points away from the top 15.

Will anyone be able to make a final run at Henrik Stenson at the top of the Race to Dubai rankings? Do you agree with the Race to Dubai Final Series setup? Let us know with a comment and stay with PGN for more from the DP World Tour Championship.

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