The Greatest Encore on Earth?
Barring a Billy Horschel, FedEx Cup-esque finish by one of Rory McIlroy’s distant rivals in the European Tour’s four-tournament final series, the Race to Dubai decider is set to be a four-day victory parade around Earth for the world No.1.
But make no mistake, the 6th DP World Tour Championship won’t lack for quality or intrigue even if the marketing gurus don’t get the bunched, sprint finish to the Race to Dubai title they so covet.
All 11 of McIlroy’s victorious Ryder Cup pals from Gleneagles are set to invade Greg Norman’s Jumeirah Golf Estates design, ensuring the climax of the Europe Tour’s globe-trotting season is anything but the forgone conclusion the order of merit race appears.
Story lines abound. Can defending Tour Championship and Race to Dubai champion Henrik Stenson find a silver lining to his frustrating year, during which the Swede has finished T4 at the US Open, T3 at the US PGA Championship, T2 at the BMW International and runner-up to Mikko IIonen at the Volvo World Match Play Championship?
Will Sergio Garcia, a long-detached second to McIlroy (€3,124,899 to be exact) in the Race to Dubai standings heading into the playoffs, find more success in the desert after his Commercial Bank Qatar Masters triumph in January and runner-up finish to Rory at the Open Championship?
Can Justin Rose reignite his impossibly hot putter from Gleneagles? Will Martin Kaymer add an exclamation mark to his major championship year? Is their more wedge-tastic magic in store from Ryder Cup clincher Jamie Donaldson? How about Victor Dubuisson’s magical short game around Earth’s tricky surrounds? The Ryder Cup rookie will defend his Turkish Airlines Open title the previous week and if the Frenchman can get his wedge-putter combo going, he’ll be a serious shout.
Don’t discount an “outsider” either. Paul Casey, Ilonen and Joost Luiten all carried title winning form into the playoff series while Lee Westwood has proven pedigree around Earth after doing the Tour Championship-order of merit double in the DP Tour Championship’s inaugural year, 2009.
Or how about a real fairytale finish to Oliver Wilson’s Cinderella story comeback. The Englishman, who speaks exclusively to Middle East Golfer over the page, has his mojo back after winning the Alfred Dunhill Links and there would be few more popular winners anywhere on Earth.
Ultimately though, the spotlight will shine brightest on McIlroy who would love to seal his career year with a repeat of his 2012 DP World Tour Championship-Race to Dubai double.
Brace for the pre-tournament “Is Rory ready” headlines after the Northern Irishman’s late withdrawal from the final series’ Shanghai swing, the BMW Masters and WGC-HSBC Champions. But presuming the 25-year-old can temporarily park the preparation for his high court date with his former management company, chances he will be the hare in the race around Earth.
The Race to Dubai might be run, but there is still a fascinating victory lap to come. And if McIlroy is in the mood, it shapes as some encore to a season that headlined by that unforgettable Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, US PGA Championship hat-trick mid-season. All that is left to do is sit back and enjoy.
25 – kilometres of TV cable is used around the course
48 – chauffeur driven BMW courtesy cars for the players and VIPs
4 – the number of holes in one recorded: on hole No. 6 by Charl Schwartzel and Ignacio Garrido in 2010 and Joost Luiten in 2012, and on hole No.4 by Stephen Gallacher in 2012
62 – the -10 course set by Justin Rose in 2012
263 - Henrik Stenson’s record lowest total (-25) last year
41 – the age of the tournament’s oldest winner, Robert Karlsson, in 2010. Rory McIlroy, at age 23, was the youngest winner in 2012
55,000 – spectators attended last year’s event, 33 percent of them visitors from outside Dubai