Time flies when you’re having fun and it’s hard to believe that this year the DP World Tour Championship celebrates its 10th event anniversary.
Launched in 2009 to the replace the old ‘Order of Merit’, the Race to Dubai sees players accumulate prize money (now converted into points), at each event throughout the season as they compete to reach Jumeirah Golf Estates in the top 60 on the Rankings to gain a coveted spot in the DP World Tour Championship. The cream of the crop compete across the Earth course to decide both the tournament winner and the Race to Dubai champion.
With a purse of US$8 million up for grabs as well as a healthy US$5 million Bonus Pool divided between top10 finishers on the Race to Dubai, the event has created a new energy and excitement to the end of the season and over the years the DP World Tour Championship has witnessed some truly captivating moments of drama.
2009 Westwood does the double
The newly branded Race to Dubai could scarcely have got off to a better start when one of the European Tour’s biggest stars romped to a six-stroke victory over Dubai-based Ross McGowan to claim the inaugural DP World Tour Championship as well as wrap up the Race to Dubai to be crowned European No.1 for the second time in his career.
2010 Karlsson downs Poulter in a sundown thriller
Towering Swede Robert Karlsson made up a three-shot overnight deficit on England’s Ian Poulter to take the event into its first play-off. The return trip down the Earth course’s 18th saw both players emerge with birdies so it was back to the tee again and this time it was Poulter who blinked first, mis-cuing his wedge from 30 feet while Karlsson was ice cool in the Dubai sun as he left his approach three feet from the cup. Poulter’s afternoon got decidedly worse when he infamously dropped his ball on his marker on the green, causing it to move ever so slightly and incurring a one-stroke penalty which effectively ended his chances of victory while turning the spotlight on one of golf’s more controversial rules. Poults missed his putt in any case while Karlsson tapped in for victory.
The battle for the Race to Dubai was between Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell and with a tied 13th place finish it was the 25 year old German who took the spoils, becoming the youngest European No.1 since Ronan Rafferty in 1989.
2011 Quiros soars like an eagle
There was drama by the bucket-load at the third edition of what was fast becoming one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the European Tour calendar. Spaniard Alvaro Quiros was leading Scotland’s Paul Lawrie by two heading into the final round but found himself one behind at the turn. England’s Luke Donald, chasing the Race to Dubai crown, looked to be in with a shout of adding the tournament title after ending his round with three birdies on the bounce to set the clubhouse target at 16-under. Then came Lawrie and Quiros down the 18th and Quiros, who had claimed the Desert Classic earlier in the season, made it a ‘Dubai double’ when he sunk a monster eagle putt to send the bulging galleries wild.
Donald, meanwhile, completed a ‘double’ of his own when wrapped up the Race to Dubai title to add to the PGA Tour money list crown he’d already bagged to become the first player to top the money lists on both tours.
2012 Majestic McIlroy takes the lot
He’d already sealed the Race to Dubai title heading into the season-ending showcase at Jumeirah Golf Estates and World No.1 McIlroy, who claimed his second Major at the PGA Championship that year, signed off in style by keeping fast-finishing World No.2 Justin Rose at bay to win by two. Englishman Rose could scarcely have done more, closing with an Earth course record 62 (the lowest round of his career), but his 23-year-old playing partner was not for budging, birdieing his last five holes to cap an unforgettable season and set a new single season earnings record of €5,519,117.
2013 The Iceman Cometh
Former Dubai resident Henrik Stenson delighted his adopted ‘home’ fans as well as ‘Henrik’s Army’ – the Stenson-mad spectators who had travelled from his native Sweden to support him – as he bid to make history as the first player to win the Race to Dubai and the US PGA Tour’s FedExCup in the same season. He did it in style, closing with a blemish-free 64 to set a tournament record of 25 under par for a six-stroke victory over Rankings rival Ian Poulter. To put the icing on the cake, the sensational three-wood he hit from the middle of the fairway for his second shot to set up a tap in eagle was voted European Tour Shot of the Year.
2014 Stenson does it again
The Earth course was tinged with a sense of déjà vu when the big Swede returned a year later to become the first back-to-back winner of the DP World Tour Championship after successfully defending a title for the first time in his career. The win saw him rise to No.2 in the World Ranking and finish second behind Rory McIlroy in the Race to Dubai.
2015 McIlroy at the ‘double’ again
The Stenson-McIlroy stranglehold on the distinctive DP World Tour Championship ‘baton’ trophy continued when the Northern Irishman beat Englishman Andy Sullivan by one shot to not only win the tournament but wrap up a record third Race to Dubai title. Sullivan didn’t make it easy for him, nor did Race to Dubai rival Danny Willett. But, as was the case in 2012 , McIlroy turned the burners on when he needed to, notching four birdies in five holes from the 11th to set up his ‘double’ winning end to the season in the emirate he calls his ‘home from home’.
2016 Fitzpatrick holds his nerve
Baby-faced assassin Matt Fitzpatrick held his nerve to sink the biggest four-foot putt of his life on the 18th to take tournament honours in 2016, beating fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton by a single shot. At 22 years and 80 days, the Pete Cowen-coached Sheffield man became the tournament’s youngest winner, beating the previous record holder Rory McIlroy who was 23 years and 205 days when he won in 2012.
Henrik Stenson still managed to grab some of the Earth course limelight from his young Ryder Cup team mate, closing with a roaring 65 to claim his second Race to Dubai title.
2017 Rahmbo rises to the occasion
Having started the week by being named the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, Spaniard Jon Rahm, already crowned Dubai Duty Free Irish Open champion earlier in the season, again proved that he was the man for the big occasion with a solid blemish-free round final round of 67 to win by one from Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Irishman Shane Lowry. The biggest drama of the day came in the three-way battle for the Race to Dubai title between Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, and Sergio Garcia. Rose looked headed for victory after reaching the turn in 32, but three bogeys down the back nine handed Fleetwood the advantage and he was duly crowned European No.1 despite finishing bogey-bogey for 17th place in the tournament. The margins were so slim that Rose would have been crowned No.1 had he finished one shot better and Garcia would have taken the event to a play-off with a birdie at the last, rather than the bogey he produced. Had he won that play-off, Race to Dubai glory would have been his.
That’s just the sort of drama that makes the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai so very special and we’re sure there’ll be more of the same when the 10th edition gets underway at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 15.