Paul Williams

Paul Williams' DP World Tour Championship Tips 2019

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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. Tommy Fleetwood’s win last week at Sun City has given him a fighting chance of taking the Race to Dubai title for the second time in 3 seasons, however Bernd Wiesberger still holds a healthy advantage over the Englishman as well as over 3rd place Jon Rahm. Shane Lowry and Matt Fitzpatrick hold mathematical chances to take the overall title too, however with the permutations required for them to win are a little more convoluted and with a strong week it could be the Austrian’s to lose.

Changes to the structure of the final 3 European Tour events means that just 50 players tee it up here this year, as opposed to the normal 60, with all eligible players opting to play here this week at the time of writing with the exception of Tony Finau. As we’ve seen with the Turkish Airlines Open and last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, the first prize for the tournament winner has been inflated for 2019, this time to a massive $3m here this week. Coupled with the Bonus Pool, should the eventual winner take both titles then it would be a very nice payday indeed.

Fresh off of his win at the WGC HSBC Champions, Rory McIlroy rates as the clear favourite to win the tournament itself this week with a little bit of 9/2 still available at the time of writing. Jon Rahm at 7/1 is the only other single-digit chance in this no-cut event, with last week’s victor Tommy Fleetwood 3rd favourite at 14/1 in an event that’s seen a real mix of short- and mid-priced chances take the title over the years.

Earth Course, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai, UAE. Designer: Greg Norman, 2009; Par: 72; Length: 7,677 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 7,677 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. Greens are large, undulating Bermudagrass which measure 12’6″ on the stimp when dry and firm 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 | Combined Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Winners & Prices. 2018: Danny Willett, 80/1; 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.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Dubai is here. Thunderstorms on Wednesday may deposit around an inch of rain on the Earth Course which will make it a little more receptive than normal for the start of the event. For the 4 days of tournament play we should see dry and sunny conditions with temperatures peaking in the high 70s Fahrenheit, accompanied by light to moderate winds.

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:

  • 2018, Danny Willett (-18). 302 yards (16th), 71.4% fairways (12th), 81.9% greens in regulation (3rd), 1.64 putts per GIR (1st)
  • 2017, Jon Rahm (-19). 313 yards (4th), 66.1% fairways (22nd), 77.8% greens in regulation (26th), 1.64 putts per GIR (3rd)
  • 2016, Matthew Fitzpatrick (-17). 298 yards (16th), 80.4% fairways (4th), 77.8% greens in regulation (21st), 1.65 putts per GIR (2nd)
  • 2015, Rory McIlroy (-21). 322 yards (1st), 62.5% fairways (37th), 83.3% greens in regulation (4th), 1.67 putts per GIR (4th)
  • 2014, Henrik Stenson (-16). 310 yards (2nd), 82.1% fairways (2nd), 83.3% greens in regulation (4th), 1.75 putts per GIR (16th)
  • 2013, Henrik Stenson (-25). 300 yards (7th), 89.3% fairways (1st), 94.4% greens in regulation (1st), 1.71 putts per GIR (8th)
  • 2012, Rory McIlroy (-23). 301 yards (2nd), 73.2% fairways (22nd), 69.4% greens in regulation (47th), 1.54 putts per GIR (1st)
  • 2011, Alvaro Quiros (-19). 311 yards (1st), 53.6% fairways (55th), 83.3% greens in regulation (4th), 1.68 putts per GIR (7th)
  • 2010, Robert Karlsson (-14). 298 yards (5th), 76.8% fairways (20th), 77.8% greens in regulation (12th), 1.63 putts per GIR (1st)
  • 2009, Lee Westwood (-23). 298 yards (8th), 85.7% fairways (7th), 91.7% greens in regulation (1st), 1.68 putts per GIR (5th)

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.

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 7 winners here and we see that birdie-making and bogey avoidance is pretty important:

  • Danny Willett (2018): par 3 scoring -2; par 4: -4; par 5: -12; 1 Eagle, 23 Birdies and 7 Bogeys over the course of the 4 days.
  • Jon Rahm (2017): par 3 scoring +1; par 4: -12; par 5: -8; 25 Birdies and 6 Bogeys over the course of the 4 days.
  • Matthew Fitzpatrick (2016): par 3 scoring: -1; par 4: -4; par 5: -12; 1 Eagle, 21 Birdies, 4 Bogeys and 1 Double over the course of the 4 days.
  • Rory McIlroy (2015): par 3 scoring:-2; par 4: -10; par 5: -9; 26 Birdies and 5 Bogeys over the course of the 4 days.
  • Henrik Stenson (2014): par 3 scoring:-4; par 4: -4; par 5: -8; 23 Birdies, 5 Bogeys and 1 Double over the course of the 4 days.
  • Henrik Stenson (2013): par 3 scoring:-1; par 4: -14; par 5: -10; 1 Eagle, 25 Birdies and 2 Bogeys over the course of the 4 days.
  • Rory McIlroy (2012): par 3 scoring: level; par 4: -12; par 5: -11; 1 Eagle, 26 Birdies and 5 Bogeys over the course of the 4 days.

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 good 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, with each having registered at least one top-7 finish in their previous 6 starts.

Danny Willett’s season was solid if unspectacular before winning 12 months ago, however with his 3 top-10s all coming in good events in Italy, Ireland and Turkey, he was seemingly saving his best for the bigger weeks on Tour.

Before that, 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:

  • Danny Willett: 19/24/MC/18/MC/59/44/MC/MC/23/7/50
  • Jon Rahm: 10/1/44/28/58/3/4/5/7/15/MC/36
  • Matthew Fitzpatrick: MC/MC/49/6/5/MC/7/16/MC/49/16/20
  • Rory McIlroy: 8/1/MC/MC/9/17/29/4/16/26/6/11
  • Henrik Stenson: 5/4/2/39/19/3/38/26/23/2/24/3
  • Henrik Stenson: 10/3/2/2/3/43/1/33/1/34/31/7
  • Rory McIlroy: MC/10/60/5/1/24/1/1/10/2/3/MC
  • Alvaro Quiros: MC/MC/53/MC/68/37/16/MC/49/7
  • Robert Karlsson: WD/14/7/65/16/MC/42/29/2/34/MC/4
  • Lee Westwood: 2/8/3/9/3/23/8/9/1/9/8/54

Course Form: Apart from the early renewals and Jon Rahm’s debut success 2 years ago, winners here generally had some decent course form prior to victory:

  • Danny Willett: 26/21/4/50
  • Jon Rahm: Debut
  • Matthew Fitzpatrick: 4
  • Rory McIlroy: 3/5/11/1/5/2
  • Henrik Stenson: 23/24/7/1
  • Henrik Stenson: 23/24/7
  • Rory McIlroy: 3/5/11
  • Alvaro Quiros: 42/3
  • Robert Karlsson: Debut
  • Lee Westwood: Debut

The 9 renewals haven’t produced any complete 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), Rahm (12/1) and Willett (80/1) 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 of those, 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 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.

My selections are as follows:

Lee Westwood 1.5pts EW 60/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Trying to build a coherent argument as to why short-priced favourite Rory McIlroy won’t win this week is no easy task. With 6-event form of 1/2/9/26/3/1 going back to the PGA Tour’s finale at East Lake, it would appear that the 30 year-old is back close to something like his very best as he looks to wrestle the OWGR number 1 spot off of Brooks Koepka before we approach next year’s Major season.

Perhaps the fact that he can’t win the Race to Dubai will dampen the Northern Irishman’s enthusiasm a little, however with such a hefty prize up for grabs for winning the event itself that may be of little consequence. The bookies are taking no chances though at what looks like it will settle at a general 4/1 and I’m happy to take a chance on some longer each-way punts that would provide a nice return even if the favourite romps home.

Sometimes I may be a little hasty in dropping a player I’ve backed the week before, only to see them perform admirably without the weight of my money on their shoulders; however with Lee Westwood I’m happy to exercise a little more patience than usual.

Last week’s headline selection at Sun City played some very nice golf at times during the course of the 4 days, eventually providing us with a reduced each-way payout courtesy of his tie for 6th place. His long game looked good for the most part and his putting was solid and, if anything, a little unfortunate at times with a number of burnt edges from good putts.

As another of the growing band of players who’ve begun working with Robert Rock, it will be interesting to see what life that partnership breathes into the 46 year-old’s game at this stage of his career, however he’s certainly seemed upbeat in interview and finishes of 10th in Turkey coupled with last week’s effort would suggest he’s heading in the right direction.

Gives me a lot of confidence. It’s as good as I’ve played all year,” he said after signing his card on Sunday. “Just going to keep working on the things with Robert Rock we’ve been working on and hopefully it will keep getting better. 10th last week and sixth next week and hopefully even better next week. I’m looking forward to Dubai and play well again.”

With 3 runner-up finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic over the years, another 2nd place finish in Abu Dhabi, plus 3rd and 5th to his name in Qatar, Westwood’s ability to play in the desert isn’t in question. 4th into Sunday here at the Earth Course last year offers further encouragement, however it was the manner of his 2009 victory here in the inaugural Dubai World Championship that really rubber-stamps his inclusion in this week’s team. The Worksop man was imperious that week, hitting 85.7% of fairways (7th), 91.7% of greens (1st) whilst topping scrambling and ranking 5th for putting on the week. That all added up to a dominant 6-stroke victory and with his game in the ascendancy once again and a smile on his face, perhaps the positive vibes from that effort a decade ago will give him the impetus to upstage the favourites here this week.

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Sergio Garcia 1.5pts EW 50/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Betfred

If opposing the favourite was difficult, then finding reasons to suggest that Jon Rahm won’t go well given his stellar record here is almost as difficult, with only his lack of competition in recent weeks working against him (potentially!). Tommy Fleetwood could be spurred on to win his second Race To Dubai title after last week’s Sunday heroics and with Tyrrell Hatton we know that he’s the sort who can maintain top form for more than one event in succession.

The bookies have got their teeth into the prices of those mentioned though; however one world-class player who seems to have slipped the net is Sergio Garcia. The layers have clearly taken a dim view of his last 3 events which have produced finishes of 60th (CJ Cup), 33rd (Zozo Championship) and 53rd (WGC HSBC Champions), however it wasn’t so long ago that we saw him win his 16th European Tour title at the KLM Open, before following that up with a 7th place finish at his home Open.

I mentioned in the preamble about the prevalence of Qatar Masters and Dubai Desert Classic form in the CVs of previous winners here and Sergio, like former Earth Course winner Henrik Stenson, has won both titles in his career. 3rd in Dubai this year was yet another strong finish in the desert which has also seen him rack up 6 further top-10 finishes in Qatar and 6 top-20 finishes from 6 starts in Abu Dhabi.

8 attempts at the Earth Course have seen the 39 year-old finish no worse than 21st and within that we’ve seen him leading heading into the weekend in 2016 as well as closing with rounds of 64 and 65 in 2012 and 2017 to finish 9th and 4th respectively. The course suits his game beautifully and with him playing a relatively light schedule this autumn he’ll be far fresher than most of the opposition this week.

During that downtime we’ve learnt that Sergio is to become a father for the second time in April of next year. Wind back to 11th October 2017 and you’ll find that the Spaniard announced that he and Angela were expecting for the first time – he promptly won the Andalucia Masters the week after that announcement. Perhaps buoyed by the news of No.2’s impending arrival, we’ll see a bounce back to form which would make a mockery of the price quoted about the former Masters champion.

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Justin Harding 1pt EW 200/1 (5EW, 1/4) with Unibet

The odds of winners here going back to the tournament’s roots in 2009 would suggest that there’s unlikely to be a massive outsider who takes the title, however trends are there to be broken and even if they were to narrowly miss, the place money from my final 2 selections would pay far more than a hefty wager on one of the market principals.

First up I’ve backed this year’s Qatar Masters champion Justin Harding who’s shown just enough flashes of form recently to suggest that another big week isn’t a million miles away.

After a failed attempt to win his PGA Tour card via the Korn Ferry finals, the talented South African returned to the European Tour to complete his season and after a couple of false starts finished 7th at the Spanish Open behind Jon Rahm, closing with weekend rounds of 64 and 67. 53rd at the WGC HSBC Champions showed steady improvement throughout the 4 days after a slow start and he carried that momentum into the Turkish Airlines Open where he was 6th heading into the weekend before fading.

A quietly fancied outsider last week on home soil, the 33 year-old’s Nedbank challenge was derailed with a Friday 78, however 69 on Saturday was amongst the best rounds of the day and will inject some positivity back into his game for this final week.

Despite seeing many tracks for the first time this season, Harding has impressed on a number of occasions and in particular in the Middle East where he finished 7th at the Dubai Desert Classic, 11th at the Saudi International before winning the Qatar Masters as previously mentioned – and we know from previous winners here that form lines such as that can carry weight when it comes to this event.

Having briefly dipped inside the OWGR top 50 earlier this year, the 7-time Sunshine Tour winner is currently outside looking in at 66th in the rankings, however a big week here could go a long way to rectifying that whilst potentially rewarding each-way backers at the same time.

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Jorge Campillo 1pt EW 200/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

Finally I’m also backing another player who’s made 2019 their breakthrough year, this time in the shape of Jorge Campillo.

Having recorded 6 runner-up finishes in his career before this year began, it seemed that the door would never open for the Spaniard, despite his clear and obvious talent. Further agonisingly close finishes in Oman (2nd), Qatar (2nd) and India (3rd) followed as winter turned into spring earlier this year, before he finally got a Sunday to go his way, holding off Erik Van Rooyen, Julian Suri and Sean Crocker by a couple of shots in Morocco.

Like Harding, that Qatar form makes for interesting reading and on top of that we have a 9th place finish here at the Earth Course on debut back in 2016 where he improved through the rounds, signing off with a 68/65 weekend which was bettered by just one player in the field. Add to that another top-10 finish on debut in Abu Dhabi further back in his career and we have enough hints of desert form to raise a little interest here this week given the price on offer.

As so often happens with first-time winners, the 33 year-old’s form began to dip not long after his breakthrough success and 7 missed cuts from 8 starts during the summer was a worrying sequence, particularly as his long game looked in a poor state which was in stark contrast to how it had been a few months earlier during his purple patch.

It’s interesting to note then that he appears to have turned a corner with his game as autumn has come around, with progressive form of 34th at the WGC HSBC Champions, 28th in Turkey and 13th last week. He led the field for Driving Accuracy in Antalya before ranking 4th last week at Sun City for GIR, coupled with a much-improved putting performance. Any further progression this week would put us close to an each-way payout in this limited field event, and at a strong 3-figure price I’m happy to take that risk.

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:05GMT 18.11.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.