Here it is, the European Tour’s season-ender, the DP World Tour Championship.
For all those that have been following the golf season closely, more specifically the European Tour and it’s Race to Dubai, you will of course know that Rory McIlroy was crowned champion without hitting a shot last week.
That was because the trio of Jamie Donaldson, Marcel Siem and Sergio Garcia, who were the only people who could catch McIlroy, failed to grab the much-needed win last week. As a result, McIlroy can come into this week under no real pressure which will suit him due to his lack of preparation.
I am sure he can win under almost any circumstance, he is that good but I am happy to bet against him this week due to the fact he’s not hit a ball competitively since the Scottish Open, seven weeks ago. He did come second that week, so his most recent form-figures still read; 2-2-8-5-5-22-1-1 but at 5/1 I can’t put my money on him to keep that up after his recent lay off.
At 7,675 yards, the Earth Course is an absolute monster, so obviously it will favour bigger hitters, and if we’re looking at the five previous winners, Henrik Stenson (2013), Rory Mcilroy (2012), Alvaro Quiros (2011), Robert Karlsson (2010) and Lee Westwood (2009) they all hit if far enough off the tee, with Westwood ranking the lowest of the five at 8th in Driving Distance, the week they won.
You’re going to have to make plenty of birdies to win here, with -25 being the winner score last year, and -14 being the highest winning score. To shoot these sort of numbers you’re going to have to putt well, and that is often the stumbling block and the reason for near misses for players when in contention. Although long hitters will have an advantage against the rest of the field, shorter hitters have done well here, notably Luke Donald who has finished, T5, T3, 3rd, T9 and T37, so you can get round even if you lack the fire power from the tee box.
Victor Dubuisson 20/1 (General) 2pts e/w: Dubuisson had a horror start last week, as he attempted to defend his Turkish Airlines Open title, but his fight back over the next three days was something special, and for that reason amongst other things, I am happy to chance him this week.
After shooting 77 round 1 in Turkey last week, Dubuisson managed to better his score in round 2 by 9 shots, shooting 68 and following that up with rounds of 70-64 over the weekend. This was another to see him ascend the leaderboard each day, eventually finishing in a tie for 15th, which I thought was mightily impressive.
Dubuisson withdrew two weeks ago, citing a bad back and that may still have been causing him problems at the start of last week. A lot of players may well of given up at that stage, realising they could barely win after such a poor opening round, but due to the no cut scenario, Dubuisson got his head down (even when suffering with nosebleeds during the second round!) and ground out an impressive score something that shouldn’t be ignored.
The positives are there, the Frenchman has looked good for the last five weeks, and after such an impressive debut at the Ryder Cup, a win here would really cap his year off. He’s finished 2nd on three occasions this year, firstly when he went head-to-head with Jason Day at the World Match-Play, then a the Nordea Masters where he lost in a play-off and more recently in Perth where he finished three shots adrift of another young star on the European Tour, Thorbjorn Olesen. He will want to get another win under his belt sooner rather than later and I believe he has every chance of doing so here.
He certainly seems to turn up in big events nowadays, highlighted again by his top-10 finish at the Open Championship, the US PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup and this week should be no different. He came 3rd here 12 months ago, a week after winning for the first time as a professional, so he clearly has a good mentality and remains very focused.
When coming 3rd last year, Dubuisson ranked 4th in Greens in Regulation, 3rd in Driving Distance, 6th in Putts per Green in Regulation and 18th in Driving Accuracy proving just how solid he was. He can be wayward off the tee at times, but he still manages to play well and given his distance and putting I am sure he will navigate this course well again.
Luke Donald 55/1 (SportingBet) 1pt e/w: Luke Donald is not the same player he has been over the years this season, and that is why he’s 55/1.
Why am I backing him this week, despite his obvious struggles this season? Easy, he has a very rich vein of form at this course. I know that’s not always the be all and end all, but he’s showing signs of form of late too, and that is very reassuring.
After a poor start in Turkey last week, he shot 68-67 over the weekend and although he was out of contention and therefore under no pressure, it’s still nice to see him put in back-to-back rounds of that standard together.
It’s no secret Donald is battling with swing changes, and if it wasn’t at a course where he plays so well I would barely be interested in backing him but he clearly loves this event and as because of that I am confident he can find somewhere near his best this week.
He is back with his old coach, Pat Goss who was his coach through his whole career until he turned to Chuck Cook last year and at this stage of his career, I think it’s a great move for Donald. Some people may believe it’s a step back, but sometimes going back to what previously worked is the only way forward, and under Pat Goss he was previously World No.1 and regularly in the World’s top-10 and winning tournaments.
It’s been a frustrating season for Donald, but they say class is permanent and Donald certainly fits that profile. Despite his struggles, his short game still remains a strong part of his game and if he can get his swing working this week, and get in contention his ability on and around the greens may give him the edge he needs.
Jonas Blixt 80/1 (Betfred & PaddyPower) 1pt e/w: It’s been an up and down season for Jonas Blixt, a year which has seen him finish T2 at the Masters, but also missed 9 cuts on the PGA Tour and 3 on the European Tour so he has struggled with consistency.
He has steadied the ship in recent weeks however, and that plus the fact he played well here last year leads me to believe he is worth a bet at 80/1.
In his last three stroke-play events he has finished T25-T14-T13 and he also went close in the Volvo Match-Play last month so it looks as though he’s finding some form.
I said he played well here last year and he did, finishing T12 at his debut at this course, and it is the type of course and event that suits. He is more than capable of a low round, especially when the fairways are more generous, which they are here at the Earth Course. He scrambles well and when on form putts well, which often makes up for his lack of accuracy off the tee.
Due to his current form, and his good showing last year I am confident he can go well here, and believe he is good value at 80/1. He is a strong character highlighted by his multiple wins, and his 2nd place at Augusta this year, so he should be right up for this type of event, where the stakes are high.