The Players 2023: Preview
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Rory McIlroy could become only the second player to win the Race To Dubai and the FedEx Cup in the same year as the season-ending DP World Tour Championship gets underway in Dubai.
After winning the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup for a record third time with his victory at the Tour Championship at East Lake in August, the Northern Irishman stands on the cusp of winning the DP World Tour’s equivalent, the Race To Dubai, on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Only one player in history has managed to win both in the same season, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in 2013. And it would be McIlroy’s fourth Race To Dubai title, having topped the season-long rankings in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
“To win both the DP World Tour Rankings and the FedEx Cup in the same season would be a great achievement and would cap what has been a memorable year on the golf course,” McIlroy said.
The current world number one is looking to claim his fourth victory of the year. After winning the FedEx Cup, he returned to the top of the world rankings with victory at the CJ Cup in October. He also has seven top five finishes this season on the DP World Tour.
His last six worldwide starts are: two wins, six top-eight finishes, a 67.48 scoring average, and 84-under-par. Ominous stuff for his fellow competitors.
The 14th edition of the DP World Tour Championship is the final Rolex Series event of the season, with the top 50 available players on the DP World Tour Rankings all playing. Last season’s winner Collin Morikawa however has withdrawn citing “upcoming personal commitments”.
This year the prize money purse has been elevated to $10 million as compared to $9 million last year, with the winner taking home a huge $3 million first prize.
Though anyone in the field can win the DP World Tour Championship, the list of golfers who can win the season-long Race To Dubai is down to seven. So, six players head into the tournament still with a mathematical chance of leapfrogging McIlroy in the standings.
He currently holds a slender 128.1-point advantage over New Zealand’s Ryan Fox who has two wins and four runner-up finishes in 2022, while US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick is in third spot as he chases a third DP World Tour Championship victory.
Tommy Fleetwood, currently fourth behind McIlroy, Fox and Fitzpatrick, is in contention after ending his three-year winless drought at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa last week.
McIlroy will top the standings if he wins this week or finishes ahead of the other six. Fox has to win or finish ahead of McIlroy and everyone else by a wide enough margin. Fitzpatrick has to finish in the top two and have McIlroy finish worse than seventh and Fox not win. Fleetwood has to win and have McIlroy finish worse than third and Fox worse than second.
In terms of the other contenders, Viktor Hovland has to win and have McIlroy finish worse than fourth and Fox worse than third. Shane Lowry has to win and have McIlroy to finish worse than seventh, Fox worse than fifth and Fitzpatrick worse than second. Finally, Adrian Meronk has to win and have McIlroy to finish worse than 16th, Fox worse than eighth and Fitzpatrick worse than second.
In simple terms, McIlroy is in charge of his own destiny and, given how he plays on this course, will start as heavy favourite to win both the DP World Tour Championship and the Race To Dubai.
McIlroy has enjoyed great success at Jumeirah Golf Estates having previously won twice on the Earth Course. He is also the all-time leader in scoring average at the DP World Tour Championship among players with 16 plus rounds played (68.52).
The Earth Course has played host to this event since 2009 and was designed by Greg Norman, who McIlroy this week said “should exit stage left” from his role as LIV Golf CEO. This surely will add extra motivation for McIlroy to win the event.
The course the Australian designed has proved a great stage for the tournament, with the final stretch offering a great spectacle for the fans and drama for the players. Norman called the last four holes, played alongside or over water culminating in a meandering creek running the full length of the 18th, “the most challenging mile in golf”.
It’s a parkland-style course with rolling fairways and brilliant white bunkering, framed by a plethora of trees and shrubs, making it a feast for the eyes – as the tournament itself will hopefully be.