As the golf clubs in the Middle East ramp up their preparations for the upcoming playing season, the professional game is closing in on this year’s climax. The last nine months on the DP World Tour have been captivating, with the circuit now set to cap off their 50th year with several highly- anticipated concluding events.
This season has been like no other. We’ve seen breakout European stars, unlikely champions and the first ever female winner. In the debut year of the Tour’s rebrand to embrace the term ‘World’ in their new look, it seems fitting to have crowned winners from five different continents in 2022. From South Africa to the USA, and New Zealand to China – champions have come from all over. It’s exactly this wide-reaching, global impact as to what makes the DP World Tour so unique. But who’s next?
As of September 1st, there are still over 55,000 DP World Tour Ranking points to play for this season. The current top 10, which is led by Rory McIlroy, is separated by less than 2000 points. With such a vast amount up for grabs, the action may seem like it is only just getting started. Much like in the Middle East at the moment, where us amateurs are starting to think about the new season with club fittings and membership fees. These elite professionals are also targeting the desert, with tension set to intensify further as we build up to the final event of the year at Jumeirah Golf Estates. There’s no doubt we’re set for an enticing end to the DP World Tour campaign.
Firstly though, the Tour still has plenty of other noteworthy stops which will undeniably deliver more twists in what has already been a dramatic year. With visits left to iconic courses such as Le Golf National, Valderrama and the Old Course again – there’s plenty of important tournaments to be played.
Most notably at the flagship event of the season – the BMW PGA Championship in September – where McIlroy will be making his return for the first time since 2019. It will surely mean more to him this year with the Northern Irishman currently at the top of the DP World Tour Rankings. He hasn’t won the Rankings since 2015, so a strong performance at Wentworth will help hugely in his pursuit of a fourth Harry Vardon Trophy. If McIlroy was to hold on to the top spot, he would further etch his name into DP World Tour history by joining greats such as Seve Ballesteros and Colin Montgomerie in winning the Rankings four times. He remains the favourite to do just that.
The four-time Major champion won’t be without a fight though, with second-place Will Zalatoris so intent on mounting a serious challenge he’s recently announced his surprise appearance at the upcoming Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, although a recent injury could put a stop to this. If he is to play, there is 6,000 DP World Tour points up for grabs at the Gary Player CC, so it’s a worthwhile and logical move.
Spotting the American this side of the pond is rarer than the safari sighting of a black rhino, so his welcomed South African debut will add even more tension to the razor-tight Rankings. The 26-year-old has earnt his position after a remarkable year in the Majors with three top-six finishes, and is clearly a player built for big tournaments. This could well be his moment if the injury doesn’t hinder him.
Following Wentworth, the circuit returns to next year’s Ryder Cup venue with Marco Simone GC again playing host to the illustrious Italian Open. A momentous tournament steeped in history with added importance this year as players attempt to prove themselves on a course which – if selected – could help define their career in next year’s Ryder Cup. Reigning champion Nicolai Højgaard romped to his second career victory at this year’s Ras al Khaimah Championship, and if he was to triumph again here, he could make a strong claim to be in Luke Donald’s European Ryder Cup side for 2023. Performing well this week will be vitally important for all.
After Rome, the Tour dashes back to Paris a week later for the historic Open de France. An esteemed event which has been a mainstay on the circuit since 1972. Having previously crowned big-name winners such as Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer, it is always a tournament not to be missed. It’s also hosted by Le Golf National, another previous Ryder Cup course, which inevitably adds extra excitement. As a European, it’s always nice to walk down memory lane of old Ryder Cup wins.
Then, the final trip up to Scotland of 2022 for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. We return to the scene of The 150th Open Championship to reminisce the year’s earlier action, while battling it out for a further 5,500 DP World Tour Ranking points. An attractively large bounty, and more than enough to play a deciding role in who takes home the Harry Vardon Trophy come the end of the year. This is not one to be missed, especially with the influx of big-name celebrities and famous faces across the week.
Before the season’s finale which involves those trips to South Africa and Dubai, the DP World Tour hosts a month of crucial Mediterranean contests with four events in October. Starting in the Spanish capital, Madrid’s Club de Campo welcomes back the Open de España before transporting south for the Andalucía Masters and Mallorca Golf Open. Both Spanish events so far this season have been won by homegrown talents, so it will be an enticing prospect to see if the nation’s best can continue their dominance on home soil. October ends at the Portugal Masters, with our own playing season in the Middle East in full flow by that point. Then, the Tour marches on to the much-anticipated trip to Sun City for ‘Africa’s Major’.
One thing for certain is that the Rankings will chop and change over the course of the next few months in unpredictable manner. McIlroy and Zalatoris lead a bunched up top 10 which includes Major winners and Rolex Series champions such as Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland and Thomas Pieters. The last five DP World Tour champions all won a Rolex Series event during the season, so the latter two do have history on their side at the moment as they look to finish in top spot for the first time.
Outside of those highlighted leading contenders, the likes of Adrian Meronk and Ryan Fox also have a chance to create history. Keep your eyes on this pairing over the coming weeks. If either one can close out the season strongly, they are also in with a genuine chance. The New Zealander in particular has enjoyed an incredible season and is by far the surprise package of 2022. A win, three second-place finishes and a handful of other top 10s has put in him with a serious shot of becoming the first Kiwi to win the Rankings. What a fitting storyline that would be to cap off the 50th year.
It’s all built up to these crucial few months ahead where every shot will count from now on. McIlroy may not have won The Open this year, and Zalatoris may have become another ‘nearly man’ of the Majors, but both are still in prime position here to create precious golfing history. Meanwhile, the gruelling summer sun will continue to fade in the desert for another year, and there’s no doubt many of you are chomping at the bit to finally get back out there. From October onwards, we will be back to enjoying the finest of golfing weather possible, while watching the pros battle it out for the DP World Tour’s top prize. The 50th year has no doubt been a fascinating one, sucking our attention in from all areas of the globe, but the drama is far from finished yet.