The PGA Tour’s year wraps up this week at the RSM Classic, but the European Tour’s season also concludes this week in Dubai at the DP World Tour Championship. This concludes the season-long Race to Dubai, which is Europe’s answer to the FedEx Cup here in the United States. It’s a fairly star-studded field with 19 of the top 50 in the world in attendance, including four of the top 10. Compare that to five of the top 50 in the world playing the RSM Classic in Georgia and none of the top 10.
With $3 million going to the winner of this tournament and a $5 million bonus pool to be split among the top five in the season-long race, it’s time to break down the final event of the European Tour season with five things to know about the World Tour Championship.
1. Feel the Bernd: The Race to Dubai has an unlikely pace car in Austrian Bernd Wiesberger. Until this year, I always assumed Wiesberger would simply be the trivia answer to the question, “Who played with Rory McIlroy when he burned down Valhalla to win the 2014 PGA Championship?” After wins at the Scottish Open, Italian Open and Made in Denmark, Wiesberger is proving me wrong, and he takes a healthy lead into this tournament. If he finishes solo second, the $2 million first prize for laying claim to the Race to Dubai is his. If he wins, he’ll grab $5 million total for the tournament and the overall race.
2. Who else can win the Race to Dubai? There are only 50 golfers in this week’s field in Dubai, and obviously any of them can win the tournament. But because of how the points have fallen this year, only Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Shane Lowry and Matthew Fitzpatrick can possibly win the season-long race. The math is a little complex, but each player’s path to the trophy is laid out here.
3. Big money: The money gets a little lost because of how much of it there is in golf these days, but the first prize of $3 million this week is the biggest first prize in the history of tournament golf. Bigger than the Masters, U.S. Open, PGA Championship or Open Championship.
4. Who’s who: The Race to Dubai winners list (formerly the order of merit) is a who’s who of elite European Tour players. This decade it has included Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald, Henrik Stenson (2x), Rory McIlroy (3x), Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari. It’s a lot easier to see Rahm joining that list or Fleetwood doubling it up than it is any of the other three in contention.
5. Rory’s world: With four wins and all of the money earned, Rory McIlroy is arguably (inarguably?) the best golfer on planet earth right now. He’s also the favorite coming into this week, although he can’t mathematically win the Race to Dubai. Still, he’s finished first or second at this tournament three times since 2012, and his performance has actually been more impressive than that.
Rory McIlroy will be seeking his third career DP World Tour Championship victory. Since the event began in 2009, Rory is a combined 129-under-par in the event, 30 strokes better than any other player. Francesco Molinari is second, at -99.