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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Preparing for the ET Finale

Like the LPGA and the CME Race to the Globe, the European Tour holds its final event in the Race to Dubai this week -- the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

And in case you didn't know, the two leaders -- separated by a mere 1613 points -- are Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett. You might say Rory's the fox and Danny's the hound, although the ET site says that there are 5 other players capable of winning should both McIlroy and Willett falter.

Danny Willett and Rory McIlroy

That's one difference between the Race to Dubai and "playoffs" on the other tours -- there is no redistribution of points. The final four events (changing to three next season) offer a lot more points but those points carry into this week's final event.

A total of 60 players made it to the finale. The Top7 players in the field -- the ones who still have a chance to win the whole thing -- are, in order:
  1. Rory McIlroy
  2. Danny Willett
  3. Justin Rose
  4. Shane Lowry
  5. Louis Oosthuizen
  6. Branden Grace
  7. Byeong Hun An
It's interesting to note that, although the Race spans 47 events, the actual number of events played by these players varies wildly. Rory played the fewest with 11 while Byeong Hun played the most with 25. (A quick scan of the field showed that the most events played by anyone in the Top60 was 32. I think this is understandable, given that the ET plays in 26 countries on 4 continents. That's a lot of travel!)

You may not be aware of just how much is on the line this week. Most fans know the money title is at stake, as is a bonus pool of up to $6.355mil for the Top15 finishers -- $5mil for the official pool, plus $1.355mil additional is available to players who play 3 of the 4 final events. But there are more important things up for grabs:
  • The Race to Dubai winner receives the Harry Vardon Trophy (that's the money title), and a seven year European Tour Card exemption. (That's a Category 1 card, like you get for winning a major.)
  • Likewise, the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai winner -- if he's a different player -- receives a five year European Tour Card exemption. That's a Category 2 card, which also goes to the winner of the BMW PGA Championship.
So you can see how a win this week could make a player's life much easier for the next few years.

The ET announced this week that they're reducing the membership requirements for the Tour to just 5 non-major and non-WGC events, down from 13 total events, starting in 2016. They also announced that reduction from 4 to 3 playoff events. Most of the talk has been how it will make it easier for world players to maintain some loyalty to the ET as well as make it easier to qualify for the Ryder Cup, but the timing also helps the winners of those ET cards this week. It will be much easier for those winners to retain their freshly-won cards, giving them the freedom to play more or less on the ET depending on how they fare on the PGA and other tours.

So this week could potentially kickstart some budding international careers -- like Danny Willett's and Shane Lowry's -- without the risk of burnout from so much travel. This week can truly be a life-changer.

GC's live coverage starts tonight -- at least, it's tonight here in the States -- but there are two different tournaments being broadcast so make sure you get the times straight. The DP World Tour Championship, Dubai starts at 3am ET Thursday morning. In addition, tonight at 8pm ET they'll be broadcasting the Australian Masters. If you plan to record the Race to Dubai event, make sure you get the correct time!

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