After 11 long months of battle, the final event of 2010 European Tour season is upon us as we head to the Greg Norman designed Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai. Don't worry though, the 2011 season starts on December 9th in South Africa so there's no time to rest!
The story of the week will be all about Martin Kaymer versus Graeme McDowell as these 2 are the only players who can mathematically win the Race To Dubai. GMac is currently 290k behind the German, however with a top prize of 910k on offer there are various permutations that could still see GMac win the Race even if he finishes 3rd this week. Finishing 3rd won't be on either of their minds though....
So what do we know? The course is a monster at 7,675 yards with 2 of the par 5s measuring over 620 yards, the tough par-4 9th which is 3 feet short of 500 yards, plus the 195 yard par 3 17th which plays to an Island green - think Sawgrass with a mid-iron! The course has settled down since we first saw it last year and will present a more formidable task from tee-to-green with much thicker rough and trees/shrubs with another 12 months of growth. The greens are similar to Hong Kong in that they're large, undulating and reasonably quick Bermuda - expect the players who putted well last week to feel the most comfortable in Dubai.
Last year's victor was the Wizard from Worksop - his sublime play in every department meant that only 5 players got within 10 shots of his 23-under total and he eventually ran out a 6-shot winner over Ross McGowan. Such was Westwood's quality from tee-to-green that he only missed 8 fairways and 5 greens over the entire 4 days - combined with a putting average of 1.68, I'd defy anyone to have beaten him in that kind of form. The best price you'll get on Westy this week is 7/1 with Paddy Power (£50 of free bets for new Paddy Power accounts - click here). With the premium a little more on accuracy this year, the winner will need to once again excel in every department - any weakness will be punished come Sunday night for sure.
So who's going to win this year? With only 1 year's worth of history to look at, we're going to need to rely heavily on player stats and current form, as such I've used the predictor heavily this week - you can check out my final predictor variables here: Dubai World Championship Predictor. My tips for the week then are as follows:
I'm sticking with McIlroy this week on a course which should play to his strengths much more than last week. Following the cramped surroundings of Hong Kong, Rory should find the space and requirement for serious length off the tee much more to his liking in Dubai - averaging 302 yards off the tee this season in Europe will certainly set him in good stead.
He couldn't quite put together the 1 really low round required last week to take the title - his 6th place finish was his 6th top-10 finish in 9 starts on the European Tour and now is the week for him to add his second Dubai-based title to his name, having won the Desert Classic last season. With most of the press coverage focussing on GMac and Kaymer, I for one wouldn't be surprised to see the Ulsterman notch his 2nd win of the season following his excellent victory at Quail Hollow on the PGA Tour.
In the 13 times that Rory has played a European Tour event on Bermuda greens in the last 3 seasons he's finished in the top 10 a mightily impressive 8 times, including his win in Dubai and his 3rd place finish here last season. He reacts on the putting surface, his form is very solid and the track will suit...time for Rory to convert.
Fancy a better return on McIlroy this week (or any other player at that?), then you must read our process which gives effective odds of nearly 50/1 on McIlroy to win - not to be missed: Dubai Betting Maximisation. RESULT: 5th
Robert Karlsson 1pt E/W 50/1 with Get a £10 matched bet via this link: Ladbrokes £10 Matched Bet
The big Swede is another player quite capable of upstaging the bigger names this week and is coming very close to a peak in his form again in my opinion. Won on a similar surface in Qatar earlier this season, and has a tendency to excel in the bigger prize tournaments with wins at the Deutsche Bank and Dunhill Links also under his belt in recent seasons. At 294 off the tee, Karlsson is also plenty long enough to tackle this course and recent form of 2nd in Portugal and 4th in Japan last week is extremely encouraging. RESULT: Winner
Henrik Stenson 1pt E/W 60/1 with Up to £200 in free bets via this link: Bet 365 £215 Free Bets
It hasn't been the best of seasons for the Swede however it's impossible to ignore a player of his quality and recent form has been much more encouraging with a tie for 13th in Shanghai following his earlier 3rd place finish at The Open.
As previous winner of the Qatar Masters (2006), Dubai Desert Classic (2007) and Players Championship (2009), Stenson is most at home on Bermuda greens and 6 top-10s in his last 8 starts on this surface in Europe means he simply has to come into the staking plan. RESULT: T24
Sergio Garcia 1pt E/W 66/1 with Get a £10 matched bet via this link: Ladbrokes £10 Matched Bet
I know that this selection could easily backfire, however I saw enough in Garcia's play at Valderrama to suggest that a significant return to form is on the horizon for one of his nation's most popular sportsmen. There was a smile on his face in Spain that had been sadly missing over recent months and it was only a final round 76 in tough conditions which prevented Sergio from finishing in the money.
More than long enough for this course as we well know, his 2009 victory in Shanghai on Bermuda is also noteworthy, as is his 2008 victory at Sawgrass. I'm going to be keeping a close eye on Garcia next season, however it wouldn't surprise me to see him finishing in the money here this week as he did when finishing 5th last season. RESULT: T21
For our spread betting tips for this tournament click here: Dubai World Championship Spread Betting Tips
All odds and bookmaker offers correct at 21:00GMT 23.11.10 but naturally subject to fluctuation.
If you like spread betting then you must visit our facebook group this week - there's a spread betting competition running with Extrabet where the winner will get a free £5-per-point spread bet on the finishing positions market at next season's curtain raiser, the Alfred Dunhill Championship on December 9th. Entry is free - click here for full details!