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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the DP WORLD

It's not only the LPGA that finishes up the 2016 season this week. The European Tour does likewise as the Race to Dubai settles the score at the DP WORLD Tour Championship in -- where else? -- Dubai.

Rory McIlroy in Dubai

Rory McIlroy is the defending champion at this event and also the defending Race to Dubai title winner. However, at fourth in the standings, with Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett and Alex Noren all ahead of him, he'll need some help to get the money title this year.

It's interesting to note that, since 2012, only McIlroy and Stenson have won this event or the Race itself. Each man has two DP WORLD titles, and Rory has three Race titles to Henrik's one.

Personally, I think Stenson is almost a shoe-in for the Race title, given his lead. He's roughly 300k points ahead of Willett (who isn't playing well), 630k points ahead of Noren (who's on a hot streak) and nearly 1.2million points ahead of McIlroy. Unless Henrik has a REALLY bad week, I don't see anybody catching him.

But the DP WORLD title, that's another matter entirely. Here are my "5 to Watch" as they contend for the ET's Tour Championship.
  • I can't possibly overlook Alex Noren here. Noren won his fourth event in less than five months just this past week, and he's a notoriously streaky player... and clearly, this is a very notorious streak!
  • Thomas Pieters has had a wonderful year, although his hot stretch came in August. But Jumeirah Golf Estates lends itself to a long bomber like Pieters, and he knows he can get some rest after this week's over. I think he'll step it up this week.
  • Andy Sullivan has been erratic this year, but he finished second here last season. I think he has something to prove, and this would be a great time to do it.
  • Francesco Molinari has been bouncing back and forth across the pond this year, but he seems to have found his game at home. He won the Italian Open in September and is coming off a T6 in the WGC last month. And since he was T4 at Dubai last year, I see no reason his good overseas play shouldn't continue.
  • And for my flier... I like Jeunghun Wang, a two-time ET winner this year. This is his first time at the DP WORLD so I have no history to go on. But after his two consecutive wins earlier this year, his game fell off until he finished T13 at the WGC and runner-up at the Nedbank. That bodes well for this week.
I didn't pick Henrik or Rory simply because this has been a long year for the both of them and I suspect they'll both be a bit "flat" this week -- Henrik for physical reasons and Rory because planning a wedding can be a distraction.

But even if I thought they would both be sharp, I'd still be going with Alex Noren. A streak like his could run for another two or three months. Or maybe not... but I like the odds that it continues this week!

The DP WORLD Tour Championship airs on GC at 3am ET Thursday morning for three hours. It's listed again at 6am ET for two hours, and again at 10am ET for three more hours. I don't know how many of these are live and how many (if any) are replays, because the GC schedule doesn't say. But clearly there will be ample opportunity to catch at least some of the action.

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