Dubai - The European Tour enters its final
event of the season with this week's DP World Tour Championship, which will
crown two champions on Sunday - winner of the $8 million tournament, and the
Race to Dubai.
Henrik Stenson is the two-time defending
champion of the tournament, which begins Thursday at the Earth course of
Jumeirah Golf Estates, while Rory McIlroy will try to win the Race to golf
Dubai, and with it the honour of being called the number one European player,
for a second straight season.
Stenson, who is searching for his first win
of the season, is currently ranked 16th in the Race to Dubai, but that looks
certain to improve.
The world number six is a combined 56-under
par for his last three visits to the Earth course, and has figured out a good game
plan to tackle the Greg Norman-designed lay-out.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to
make it three in a row. It's not going to be easy, I know that much," said
Stenson, who will try to make it back-to-back wins for Sweden after Kristoffer
Broberg's triumph in Shanghai.
"I've got 59 other players who wants
to stop me dearly and I'm just going to go out and try and make the same plan
and hopefully play somewhat close to what I've done the previous two years, and
we'll see if we can give it a shot."
Also in the reckoning for the title will be
the in-form Justin Rose, who holds the course record of 62 and who has finished
second here twice.
The world number five from England, who can
also win the Race to Dubai, said: "I have always enjoyed finishing the
season here in Dubai.
"It's a course that has been good for
me and I really enjoy playing. I've played well here the last few years and I
come in here with the exciting chance of trying to win the Race to Dubai."
It is a close battle for the Race to Dubai,
with seven players - McIlroy, Danny Willett, Rose, Shane Lowry, Louis
Oosthuizen, Branden Grace and Korean rookie An Byeong-hun - all in with a
chance on Sunday.
However, only McIlroy and the second-ranked
Willett are in control of their own destinies, meaning if they win the
tournament, it doesn't matter where everyone else is finishing.
And with just 1 613 points separating them,
whoever has a better finish between McIlroy and Willett, is guaranteed to win
the Race to Dubai, and along with it a bonus of $1.875 million.
Willett had a chance to catch up with
McIlroy in last week's BMW Masters in Shanghai, but instead of finishing solo
28th or better, he finished tied 28th.
McIlroy will have the advantage of being
fresh for the tournament since he did not play the BMW Masters, and has a
phenomenal record at the Earth course, where the only time he did not finish
inside the top-five in six starts was in 2011, when he was tied 11th.
The other battle in the Race to Dubai is
the honour of being called the Rookie of the Year.
An (seventh in the Race to Dubai),
England's Matt Fitzpatrick (14th) and India's Anirban Lahiri (19th) are in
contention for the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award.
Only the top-60 players from the Race to
Dubai qualify for the DP World Tour Championship, but with Sergio Garcia (27th)
deciding not to play this week and South African George Coetzee (32nd) still
recuperating from his broken ankle, No 61 Stephen Gallacher of Scotland and No 62
Alejandro Canizares of Spain have got into the field.