Rory McIlroy in the spotlight despite trailing by 4 on day 1 of DP World Tour Championship

Rory McIlroy in the spotlight despite trailing by 4 on day 1 of DP World Tour Championship
Rory McIlroy in the spotlight despite trailing by 4 on day 1 of DP World Tour Championship

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - : What’s happening this week at the DP World Tour’s season-ending championship is unprecedented. The $10.5 million DP World Tour Championship is a limited-field event, with only those in the top 50 of the Race to Dubai (season-long Order of Merit) qualifying for it.

It’s a tournament every player hopes to be a part of. It is the best proof that they have had a decent season. However, some players (mostly those who ply their trade primarily in America) do tend to skip the tournament, which has been held at the Earth Course of Jumeirah Golf Estates every year since its inception in 2009.  

For the first time in 15 years, each player in the top 50 has entered this week’s event — an unequivocal testament to its stature. That includes Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland, World No. 2, 3 and 4 respectively.

The battlefield is set, and so are the stars. Here are five talking points ahead of the championship.

McIlroy gets the crown even without hitting a ball

McIlroy has taken an unsurmountable lead in the Race to Dubai, making him the first player ever to win the year-long crown even before the season-ending championship has been played.

McIlroy has two big wins this season in the DP World Tour in two Rolex Series events — Hero Dubai Desert Classic and the Genesis Scottish Open. That, along with his performances in the majors (three top 10s), was enough to get him to 5,166.47 points. That leaves second-placed Rahm at 3,081.94 points, which means even if he wins this week (2,000 points), he won’t be able to catch McIlroy.

The Northern Irishman has a phenomenal record in the tournament and will surely be a leading contender come Sunday. In 12 appearances, McIlroy has finished outside the top 10 only twice and has only five over-par rounds in 48 outings. He won the championship in 2012 and 2015 and would love to add a third title to his glowing CV.

Another title for Rahm on Earth?

The defending champion, when asked about his love for the Earth Course of Jumeirah Golf Estates, wasn’t exactly able to put a finger on one reason. Rahm’s record is astonishing — three wins in four starts (2017, 2019, 2022), and when he did not win the title in 2018, he was tied fourth. His worst score over the 16 rounds is a pair of two-under 70s.

The Spaniard’s powerful driving is a key factor, but he is equally solid on and around the greens.

Rahm did not have any qualms about losing the chance to add to his one DP World Tour Race to Dubai title (2019), blaming himself for not having a schedule that gave him a chance to contend for the Order of Merit crown. But the World No. 3 is motivated to win a fourth DP World Tour Championship and finish the season on a high.

Hovland’s sensational year

Unlike Henrik Stenson in 2013 and McIlroy in 2022, Hovland will not be able to win the Order of Merit on both sides of the Atlantic. But the FedEx Cup champion on the PGA Tour can add another feather to his cap this season with a first win in the DP World Tour Championship.

The man from Norway bagged a check of $18 million for his exploits in America (three wins, including the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup), and then played a pivotal role with 3.5 points in Europe’s Ryder Cup triumph. He has the game to stop the DP World Tour Championship from becoming a two-horse race between McIlroy and Rahm but is too far behind to challenge McIlroy’s supremacy in the Order of Merit. 

10 players for the PGA Tour

As part of the strategic alliance between the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, the top 10 non-exempt players from the Race to Dubai will earn their membership in America, and those will be determined on Sunday after the DP World Tour Championship.

The players who have a chance, as of now, are Adrian Meronk, Ryan Fox, Victor Perez, Thorbjorn Olesen, Alexander Bjork, Sami Valimaki, Robert MacIntyre, Jorge Campillo, Ryo Hisatsune and Rasmus Hojgaard. But all that can change. Even the 50th-ranked player in the field, England’s Daniel Brown, can secure his card with a win this week.

8 players for the Bonus Pool

The top eight players at the end of the tournament are eligible for the Race to Dubai Bonus Pool of $6 million. McIlroy has already secured the top prize of $2 million, but there could be a lot of jostling for the next seven places, and each of the 49 remaining players in the field can get inside the bonus position. The bonus check for finishing eighth is $300,000.

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