Pete Cowen: Long year of hard work comes to a close in Dubai

Life as a touring professional can be mentally draining and players rarely get a lenghty break so it will be fascinating to see which players have kept enough in the tank as the European Tour season ends this month in Dubai.

Coming into the DP World Tour Championship, Mike Walker and I train nearly 25 per cent of the field of the 60 top players on the European Tour.  But, surprisingly, we’ve got no one right up there to challenge for the Race to Dubai, which is a first for Mike and myself.

Tommy Fleetwood’s run of form around The Masters and his win at the HNA Open de France pulled him away from the rest of the lads and no one has been able to give chase.

It’s been a long hard season as usual but the players will always look to peak around the Majors and the big events. So it will be interesting to see who’s kept something in the tank for the final events, starting at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China before the final three Rolex Series events, as there’s some serious money on offer. We will be working hard on the driving range with our lads at Jumeirah Golf Estates in the run-up to the climax of the European Tour. But even though we might not have a shot at the Race to Dubai we’ve got a good chance of successfully defending the DP World Tour Championship itself.

Matt Fitzpatrick is coming into form and having won the Championship last year he certainly knows his way round the Earth course and how to get the job done. Kiradech Aphibarnrat is another one of my players with the talent and experience to win.

All eyes are on Thomas Pieters wherever he tees it up. He’s a little rusty but don’t be surprised to see him play his way into form coming into the final event. Thomas loves to take a break. He only wants to play events when he’s fresh and he’s only interested in winning tournaments.

Looking ahead to next year’s schedule, it’s fascinating to see how the Middle East has become even more crucial to the players and to the European Tour. We can expect to see strong fields as usual in Abu Dhabi and Dubai but I think Nick Tarratt and the European Tour will be pleased to also see a good turn out for the events in Qatar and Oman.

I appreciate that the prize money isn’t as strong as the other two events but they fit perfectly into the calendar. The players who don’t qualify for the WGC event in Mexico will have very few options to play until after The Masters.

All the players really enjoy the Middle East for its weather and its great courses so I expect some might even stay in the area after Dubai and work on their game before heading over to Qatar.

That is one of the reasons for developing my presence in Dubai, but I will announce more about that around the time of the DP World Tour Championship.

Having examined the Tour’s 2018 International Schedule with the players, it’s interesting to see how the European Tour are again introducing new ideas.  I don’t know the full structure of the 2018 Shot Clock Masters in Austria next June, but anything that can be done to speed up the game can only be good.

I liked the GolfSixes at the Centurion Club and it’s great to see it back on the schedule along with Thomas Pieter’s event, the Belgian Knockout, in May. I know Thomas’ sister and brother-in-law are involved with the event and with Belgium producing two Ryder Cup players in recent years (Colsaerts and Pieters) interest in the game has certainly increased. So I’d expect that event to be a success but, more importantly, anything that can be done to make the game more interesting to youngsters is essential and these fun events are a huge step in the right direction.

The Ryder Cup next year will always draw attention, regardless of age groups. Things look quite well balanced at the moment with the USA having seven players in the top 20 in the world ranking and Europe with 10. However, the USA were strong at The Presidents Cup and having spoken to Phil Mickelson in China he was delighted how their players fought to turn matches around early on in the event.

But although they more than dominated the fourballs and foursomes the International team had the upper hand in the singles and anything can happen in match play. I just hope it’s a close encounter in Paris. The more attention the game receives the better.