If you're betting on the First Round Leader market for this event then check out our new FRL Form/Event Form stats here.
After more than 11 months of battle - stretching all the way back to the end of November last year - we finally arrive at the season's finale in Dubai. A change of plan next year for the European Tour may well be in order given the apathy that we've seen towards these final events over the past fortnight, with many of those with a theoretical chance of overturning Francesco Molinari's lead choosing to miss either the Turkish Airlines Open, Nedbank Golf Challenge or both, which leaves us with a 2-horse race between the Open Champion and last year's Race To Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood.
Justin Rose's non-attendance here this week from 3rd place in the rankings underlines for me that change needs to happen if these critical events in the European Tour calendar are going to capture the imagination of the world's elite moving forwards. With all that said, we're still presented with an excellent tournament in its own right though with Rory McIlroy shading favouritism over Sergio Garcia, followed by the likes of defending champion Jon Rahm, Fleetwood, WGC HSBC Champions winner Xander Shauffele and Tyrrell Hatton who all rate 16/1 or shorter with the bookmakers.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford rounds off the season with his RSM Classic preview.
Paddy Power are attacking this week's DP World Tour Championship and are offering 6 places each-way at 1/5 odds on this 60-man field. If you haven't already got a Paddy Power account then new customers can access a £/€20 risk-free bet which is refunded in CASH if it loses. 18+, T&Cs apply: Promo code YSKA01 required – use this qualifying link to claim.
Earth Course, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai, UAE. Designer: Greg Norman, 2009; Par: 72; Length: 7,675 yards; Fairways: Bermuda; Rough: Bermuda/Rye; Greens: TifEagle Bermuda; Stimp: 12'6".
Course Overview. As ever, the venue for the DP World Tour Championship is the Greg Norman-designed Earth Course. The track 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. The fairways are quite wide and, with dry weather in the run-up to this week, the course will be playing hard and fast. Greens are large, undulating Bermudagrass which measure 12'6" on the stimp and, as always, aren't to every player's liking.
Tournament Stats. We've published some key player statistics for this week's DP World Tour Championship that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2017: Jon Rahm, 12/1; 2016: Matthew Fitzpatrick, 66/1; 2015: Rory McIlroy, 5/1; 2014: Henrik Stenson, 17/2; 2013: Henrik Stenson, 11/1; 2012: Rory McIlroy, 6/1; 2011: Alvaro Quiros, 40/1; 2010: Robert Karlsson, 50/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the European Tour since 2010 click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Dubai is here. Dry, warm and sunny conditions will greet the players this week in Dubai with temperatures reaching the low-90s Fahrenheit each day and afternoon breezes picking up to around 10-15 mph.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of recent winners here gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited here:
Up until Matt Fitzpatrick's win in 2016, you could have argued with some conviction that length off the tee was pretty much a pre-requisite here at the Earth Course. From Lee Westwood in 2009 through to Rory McIlroy in 2015, each winner had ranked inside the top-8 for Driving Distance on the week and on 4 occasions the winner was in the top-2 for distance off the tee. Jon Rahm restored some order last year by ranking 4th for distance and in general I'd err on the side of longer players here. Now Fitzpatrick isn't long by any stretch, however he has shown an ability to perform on longer tracks (a win at the Nordea Masters and 7th at Augusta spring to mind) and perhaps that's actually the key factor in not being intimidated by the length here. More average length drivers can perform well - Ian Poulter, for instance, has a decent record here, as has Francesco Molinari - however shorter players need to make up for that handicap with an excellent performance from tee-to-green.
Looking a little deeper at the past 6 winners here and we see that birdie-making and bogey avoidance is pretty important:
Generally the winner will have an excellent week on the par-4s whilst making birdie or better on around 50-60% of the par-5s during the course of the week. With a perfect forecast this week and relatively little wind to speak of, I'd expect the winning total to be around the 20-under mark and the winner to excel on the par-4s as well as the par-5s.
Incoming Form: In terms of incoming form, the winners here had all produced some decent results in the recent past before lifting the trophy. Rahm had won twice in the season already and had produced 4 top-7 finishes in the FedEx Cup PlayOffs before 3 less convincing efforts prior to his win. Fitzpatrick had finished 7th at Augusta before winning the Nordea Masters earlier in 2016, plus he'd produced a couple of top-10 finishes in his previous 8 starts. Rory had won the Dubai Desert Classic earlier in 2015 as well as the WGC Match Play and Wells Fargo Championship, plus had some decent incoming form. In fact all of the winners had some positive form either recently and/or from the Middle East earlier that year to encourage punters:
Course Form (back to 2010): Apart from the early renewals and Jon Rahm's debut success 12 months ago, winners here generally had some decent course form prior to victory:
The 9 renewals haven't produced any massive shocks with Westwood (16/1), Karlsson (50/1), Quiros (40/1), McIlroy (6/1), Stenson (11/1 & 17/2), McIlroy again (5/1), Fitzpatrick (66/1) and Rahm (12/1) all backable for various reasons. Fitzpatrick and Rahm were probably the most difficult to find as each of the other winners here in the event's history have an excellent record in the Middle East swing on the European Tour and each, except Westwood, had won either in Qatar, Dubai or both over the course of their respective careers. Fitzpatrick did however back up his success here with a top-5 finish at the Dubai Desert Classic the following year plus Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge earlier this year in the desert, so perhaps it's more of a case that the pair hadn't really had chance to show their hands fully before they won here.
The rough has been toughened a little over the years which swings the pendulum a little more towards total driving and quality ball-striking than putting in my opinion, although top-quality putters may well still find a way to get into contention this week. Those players who can find fairways (and the further down the better), find greens and produce an impressive enough performance on the Bermuda greens are most likely to succeed in my view and the cream is really quite likely to rise to the top over the course of the 4 days.
My selections are as follows:
Jon Rahm 3pts EW 14/1 with £/€20 risk-free bet* for new accounts, 18+, T&Cs apply (6 EW, 1/5 odds):
Shocks in this event aren't common and I suspect that the best players will gravitate to the top of the leaderboard once again this week as the European Tour season draws to a close. While Francesco Molinari in all likelihood cruises to Race To Dubai glory, the DP World Tour Championship title itself is likely to be the most exciting element of this week and I see no reason why Jon Rahm can't make a decent fist of defending his title from last season.
Rory McIlroy heads the betting this week despite continuing to disappoint with the driver and, with his key strength letting him down, I find him difficult to fancy despite having won here twice in the past. Sergio Garcia's elation at winning at Valderrama could easily have been repeated last week at Sun City, however the Spaniard may well be deflated after letting a golden chance slip past him. With Tommy Fleetwood being the focus of the media attention as the only man capable of catching Francesco Molinari, I wonder if he'll feel the pressure as he did last year when defending his lead. Xander Schauffele is difficult to assess on course debut, however he could undoubtedly go very well here, whereas Tyrrell Hatton will need to smarten up his long game if he's going to contend - all of which leads me to Rahm.
I backed Rahm on his last start at the WGC HSBC Champions in the belief that his emotional singles win over Tiger Woods at the Ryder Cup would spur him on for the remainder of the season and beyond. I still subscribe to that chain of thought, despite the Spaniard finishing 22nd after a slow first couple of days; his improvement from the weekend onwards was noticeable and with a couple of weeks' rest while a number of his peers have been jet-setting around the globe, I suspect we'll see a strong continuation of that upward trend on a course that he fell in love with on debut 12 months ago. In this event's short history we've already seen multiple winners twice in the shape of Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy and a further addition to that statistic is quite possible here this week in my view.
Defending a title is never easy, however we can forgive the 24 year-old for his 29th place finish at this year's Farmers Insurance Open as he'd won the week before at the CareerBuilder Challenge, however at the halfway point and sitting in 2nd spot he was difficult to bet against. A slow start in challenging conditions at the Irish Open looked like it had put paid to his 2nd attempt at defending a title back in July, however to his credit Rahm pulled that performance around and eventually finished 4th. So perhaps it will be 3rd time lucky this week for a hugely talented player who has all the attributes to continue to contend at the top of world golf for many years to come.
With 'Moliwood' likely to be the focus of much of the media attention this week, I suspect this will be the most low-key of title defences in terms of demands on his time and that could play right into the hands of Rahm this week. With a game that clearly suits this track and the pressure off, I can't see anything but a big week for this week's Predictor number 1 selection here in Dubai. RESULT: T4
Haotong Li 2pts EW 20/1 with £/€20 risk-free bet* for new accounts, 18+, T&Cs apply (6 EW, 1/5 odds):
Without dipping too much further down the bookmaker's lists, I'm also backing Haotong Li to continue his excellent run of form for a final week. 3 times in his past 5 starts the Chinese superstar has finished inside the top-5 and a further lofty finish is quite possible here this week as he looks to finish his most successful season with a flourish. Aside from those aforementioned efforts in Scotland, Turkey and last week at Sun City courtesy of a fast-finishing 65, the talented 23 year-old has also finished 9th at Walton Heath and 11th at the WGC HSBC Champions in what's been a sparkling run of form driven by a combination of his aggressive style (22nd on Tour for Driving Distance) and some excellent form with his irons and putter. That's a potent combination for the Earth Course and progressive course form of 30/13 could spell another contending performance as it collides with his current state of game.
2 European Tour victories in his short career to date could easily have been 3 had he taken his chances against Justin Rose in Turkey, however he's clearly not let it affect him for long given last week's effort. One of those victories was at this season's Dubai Desert Classic which is an event that's popped up on the CV of a few of our previous winners here and with positive vibes from the region and his current quality of play, I can see this precocious young talent getting firmly into the mix here this week. RESULT: T30
Jordan Smith 1pt EW 100/1 with New customers: Bet £10 get £30 & 30 free spins. 18+, T&Cs apply** (6 EW, 1/5 odds):
Dean Burmester 1pt EW 125/1 with New customers: Bet £10 get £30 & 30 free spins. 18+, T&Cs apply** (6 EW, 1/5 odds):
A couple of 3-figure chances to round off this season's selections. First up Jordan Smith who combines effortless 300-yard drives with a level of control that would see him rank towards the very top of a Total Driving statistic should it be calculated on the European Tour. That long game prowess has been increasingly evident over the past few weeks as the Englishman has ranked inside the top-10 for Driving Accuracy on each of his last 3 starts and when his irons are on song - as they were at Walton Heath - he's very dangerous, as was evident with his 3rd place finish there last month. What's really been noticeable though is that the 25 year-old's putter has also started to warm of late - 3 top-8 putting performances in his last 5 starts - and that's really not his strength at all. With all aspects of his game working well in isolation then, if he can put them together one week he's going to come very close to winning and perhaps a return to the Middle East region where he won both of his Challenge Tour titles will spur him on to a big finish here this week. Those wins - the Red Sea Egyptian Challenge and Ras Al Khaimah Challenge - came with winning totals of -18 and -20 respectively, which isn't out of kilter with a contending total here at the Earth Course, and 6th at last year's Qatar Masters after a slow start also offers encouragement. 25th here last year on debut doesn't tell the whole story as the Bath man had withdrawn from the Nedbank with Glandular Fever the week before and still wasn't right when opened with a 75 here, however to his credit he battled though with some great golf to improve his position. 12 months on and with a recent top-3 to his name and a closing round of 67 at the Nedbank, I think he could improve on last year's effort considerably and threaten the each-way places. RESULT: T12
Finally I'm taking a chance on big-hitting Dean Burmester who took a shine to this course when finishing 4th last year on debut. Born in Zimbabwe but representing South Africa in golf, the 29 year-old has won once on the European Tour at the 2017 Tshwane Open as well as 6 further times on the Sunshine Tour, however he's certainly got the game and talent to compete on a bigger stage such as this. 9th at the Scottish Open is another good result in elevated company and last week's 11th place finish at the Nedbank, which cemented his position inside the Race To Dubai top-60, is a further case in point. Aside from his aforementioned effort here 12 months ago, which could have been better still had he not played the final 4 holes in 1-over par on Sunday, Dean has also finished 7th at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Championship and 22nd at the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year when he produced 4 rounds in the 60s in decent company. A second round 65 on his penultimate start in Turkey hinted at some decent underlying form and a personal best by some distance at Sun City last week encourages further given the price on offer. Improving ironplay seems to be the catalyst for this most recent spike in form and if he can continue that trend while repeating last year's top-10 putting performance on these slick Bermuda greens, then I see no reason why he can't push towards the first page of the leaderboard and reward each-way backers here once again. RESULT: T4
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel
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