Paul Williams

Paul Williams' DP World Tour Championship Tips 2020

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After more than 12 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.

Patrick Reed heads the Race to Dubai by the best part of 500 points from Tommy Fleetwood, with Collin Morikawa, Lee Westwood and Christiaan Bezuidenhout not far behind, however with 12,000 points in total up for grabs this week and 2,000 points to the winner, as to who actually wins the overall title is still very much up in the air and will be heavily skewed by this week’s result.

In a response to the impact of the pandemic, the European Tour have tweaked the qualification criteria this week meaning that we have 65 players in attendance as opposed to the eventual 50 that we saw 12 months ago. With the omission of automatic qualifiers Louis Oosthuizen, Lucas Herbert, Paul Casey and Shane Lowry amongst others, a dozen players have sneaked into the field despite sitting outside the original top-60 qualification mark, In addition, Viktor Hovland, Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson and Jazz Janewattananond also get a start courtesy of a top-75 OWGR ranking, despite finishing even further down the list.

The real hammer blow to the European Tour though is the absence of defending champion Jon Rahm and fellow 2-time Earth Course champion Rory McIlroy. That leaves a far more open field with Patrick Reed as the 8/1 favourite at the time of writing; beyond Captain America we have a rash of contenders in the 12-14/1 bracket with Tyrrell Hatton, last week’s Mayakoba winner Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood and US PGA Champion Collin Morikawa all around that mark.

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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. 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.

dp world tour championship tips

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. 2019: Jon Rahm, 7/1; 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.

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, reaching 10-12mph in the afternoons.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of recent winners gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited here:

  • 2019, Jon Rahm (-19). 315 yards (8th), 67.9% fairways (8th), 87.5% greens in regulation (1st), 1.65 putts per GIR (1st)
  • 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.

The most consistent statistic from the winners detailed above, aside from tee-to-green performance, has been putting on these Bermudagrass greens. Henrik Stenson’s win in 2014 saw him rank 16th in the field for putting average which is the worst on show – indeed both Jon Rahm and Danny Willett topped that stat when proving victorious over the past two renewals.

Looking a little deeper at the past 8 winners here and we see that birdie-making and bogey avoidance is pretty important:

  • Jon Rahm (2019): par 3 scoring -2; par 4: -4; par 5: -13; 1 Eagle, 25 Birdies, 6 Bogeys and a Double over the course of the 4 days.
  • 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 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-5s predominantly.

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.

Jon Rahm hadn’t played for 7 weeks before he won here last year, with his previous start at the Spanish Open also producing silverware. 4th in the world when arriving here 12 months ago, the Spaniard had also won the Irish Open earlier that year on the European Tour and had finished 2nd to Danny Willett at Wentworth a couple of weeks before his homeland win.

Danny Willett’s season was solid if unspectacular before winning 2 years 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:

  • Jon Rahm: MC/3/2/1/11/7/3/5/13/2/MC/1
  • 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:

  • Jon Rahm: 1/4
  • 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 10 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), Willett (80/1) and Rahm (7/1) all backable for various reasons.

Fitzpatrick and Rahm on debut 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 before winning this title again last year, 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:

Tyrrell Hatton 3pts Win 12/1 with bet365

The top of the market looks a tricky affair to unpick, with Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland making their Earth Course debuts and Patrick Reed returning to the European Tour with a very real chance of converting his lead at the top of the Race to Dubai.

Tommy Fleetwood can’t be discounted despite some indifferent form of late as he looks to go one better than last year’s runner-up finish here, however of the leading 5 players in the betting my preference is for Tyrrell Hatton.

Often in these situations I’ll dodge the top of the market completely, however with 7 of the 11 winners of this title converting at odds of 16/1 or shorter, it’s fair to say that the cream very often does rise to the top in this event.

Tyrrell’s not 10th in the world nowadays by accident; far from it in fact. The Englishman has had a fabulous 12 months or so, winning a Rolex Series event in Turkey in last year’s lead up to this tournament before breaking his duck in America at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Bucks man added his third career Rolex Series win at Wentworth in the early autumn and the icing on the cake would be to cap it all with victory here, which may well prove enough to win the Race to Dubai as well in one fell swoop.

The 29 year-old is a winning machine when at the top of his game and there’s enough in his recent performances to suggest that he could go very close here. Following his success in Surrey, Tyrrell finished 3rd at the CJ Cup where he topped GIR and putting average. His irons were in good shape again when finishing 7th at the Houston Open and he found 84.7% of greens last time out at the RSM Classic, his highest number in that statistic for over a year. He closed with a round of 65 on that most recent start to keep his spirits up heading to the season’s end.

46th here last year was Hatton’s worst result from 6 starts, with finishes of 6th, 13th, 2nd , 8th and 22nd coming before that. 2nd, 8th, 2nd and 7th for putting average on his first 4 starts here suggests he loves putting on these Bermuda greens and when you couple that with his current level of performance with his irons, that could be a potent combination. 8th, 3rd and 3rd at the Dubai Desert Classic over the years is also useful form for this and all that’s missing in that respect is a win in this neck of the woods.

Rolex level competition holds no fear for the 2018 Ryder Cup star and he’s playing with a new level of confidence and a far more level temperament in recent times, which is really washing through to his results. For me he should go very close to winning this golf tournament. RESULT: T8

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Robert MacIntyre 2pts EW 28/1 (5EW, ¼) with Unibet

The absence of a number of top players at the head of the field gives scope for the likes of Robert Macintyre to have a run at this title. That’s not to say that the Scot wouldn’t be capable of beating the likes of Rahm or McIlroy on his day – far from it, I’m sure he has the talent to do so, however his path is certainly clearer than it may ordinarily have been.

The 24 year-old got his much anticipated first European Tour victory at the Cyprus Showdown last month in fine style, outshooting everybody on the final day to take the spoils, however he’s shown no sign of dining out on that victory by following it up with a 6th place finish at Leopard Creek on his next start and 19th last week on the neighbouring Fire Course where he sat in 7th place heading into the final round. We’ve already had multiple post-lockdown winners in the shape of Sam Horsfield, John Catlin and of course most recently Christiaan Bezuidenhout, and, like Hatton, Macintyre appears to be one of those players who’s adapted better to life in the bubble.

Looking back at last year’s stats here where Strokes Gained were captured for the first time, long game stats stick out like a sore thumb with, in particular, players ranking 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th for Strokes Gained off the Tee finishing inside the top-6 and ties, plus players ranking 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th for strokes gained Tee-to-Green finishing inside the top 4 overall. Interesting then that Macintyre has ranked 13th, 2nd, 1st and 2nd plus 1st, 2nd, 25th and 10th on the same 2 counts over his past 4 starts. In short, he’s flushing it at present and that bodes well on this setup.

14th here last year on debut was a solid effort, particularly as he talked in interview about learning the course as he was playing plus he was also nursing a nagging wrist injury. With that experience in the bank, a clean bill of health and the confidence of a breakthrough win behind him now, I’d expect the world number 59 to push on from that effort and seriously threaten this week.

8th at the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year is further form in the region, as was his first win as a professional on the MENA Tour back in 2017, where he was victorious on the opposite side of the Persian Gulf at the Sahara Kuwait Championship. RESULT: T23

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Danny Willett 1pt EW 66/1 (5EW, ¼) with Unibet

The headline form of Danny Willett is the only explanation as to why we find the 2018 champion in the middle of the betting board this week as opposed to the upper echelons.

From his last 10 completed tournaments we have 6 missed cuts and no finish better than 25th – albeit that was at Augusta – however the former Masters champion has stated recently that he’s happy with where his game is and he’s fitter and stronger than he has been for some time. The thing with Danny is that he’s clearly focussing his game to peak around target events and this has got to be one that wets his whistle.

As it happens, despite an uninspiring form line, there are some strong signs of positivity. 10th for Putting Average at Augusta was encouraging and 10th for Driving accuracy last week on the course next door was also a tick in the box, despite his iron-play not allowing him to get closer than 30th place overall.

What we’ve seen with Willett though is that he can fix those kinds of things from one week to the next. His win here 2 years ago is a clear case in point, where he recovered from a poor Ball-Striking week at Sun City the week before to rank 12th for Driving Accuracy and 3rd for GIR, which was good enough to allow him to walk away with the title.

The 33 year-old’s most recent win came at the BMW PGA Championship last year, another classy title to back up the assertion that he’s focussed on the big prizes. He didn’t do a great deal after that success with form of 26/18/46/73/38, but still arrived here 12 months ago and defended his title impressively, finishing in 5th place eventually. Add to that a 4th place finish here in 2016 and he has incoming course form of 4/50/1/5 which encourages support at the price on offer.

The Sheffield man, who now bases himself out of Orlando, Florida when plying his trade across the Atlantic, can also boast a win at the 2016 Dubai Desert Classic which is so often a feature of a winner’s CV here and, from the 11 renewals of this event, we’ve already had 3 repeat winners in the shape of Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy and of course Jon Rahm. RESULT: T32

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Dean Burmester 1pt EW 80/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

At a slightly longer price, Dean Burmester warrants some support on a track where he’s finished 4th on both attempts in 2017 and 2018.

I feel right at home for some reason. I walk on to this golf course and feel right at home. I see the tee shots and see the shots into the greens and know the lines around the pins,” was how the South African described the Earth Course, going on to explain why it suits his powerful driving game, “Yeah, that’s probably one of the reasons why I like it so much. Like you say, a lot of holes, I can just get out there and rip it. A lot of lines I’m taking at, the guys don’t have.

Burmester missed out on this event last year courtesy of a relatively poor season, however there have been no such issues this year and he rubber-stamped his place in the field with another 4th place finish last week in his home Open, where he topped the field for Total Driving and Ball-Striking by combining his long hitting – 2nd on Tour for the season, behind Wilco Neinaber – with a ranking of 3rd for Driving Accuracy and 2nd for GIR. Had his short game been that little bit sharper then he’d have pushed much closer for a second European Tour title in his homeland.

16th for Par-5 scoring, 11th for Eagles and 2nd for Strokes Gained Putting are all positive pointers for another assault on the title here at Jumeirah and you can add a 3rd place finish at the Emirates at this year’s Dubai Desert Classic for more relevant form for this week’s task.

There’s plenty to like about how the 31 year-old’s been playing since lockdown eased, starting with a 6th place finish at the English Championship before leading the Irish Open after the first day before fading to 22nd overall. More recently Dean finished 5th at the Italian Open where he opened with a 64 as well as 18th at the Joburg which contained a 3rd round 65, with his only blemish coming at Leopard Creek where he failed to recover from a slow start. With his form in the ascendancy once again and his long game in great shape, another each-way payout or better could well be on the cards here this week. RESULT: T14

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