DP World Tour Championship Contenders
Jon Rahm’s withdrawal has somewhat undermined the European Tour’s headline event, and it’s not been helped either by the absence of Viktor Hovland here either, meaning two of Europe’s top three players won’t be on show in Dubai, which obviously leaves Rory McIlroy as the market leader, and it’s clear to see why.
The Northern Irishman’s form at the Earth Course reads 3-5-11-1-5-2-1-9-20-4, and it’s safe to say he absolutely adores desert conditions, highlighted by his second PGA Tour win of the season at the CJ Cup in Nevada last month.
There’s very little doubt that McIlroy will compete in the form he’s in too, with top four finishes in half of his six starts since the Open, and despite a short price of 7/1, it’s difficult to see anyone beating him here.
However, despite a smaller field, 7/1 is too short to get behind when considering the 32-year-old hasn’t won successive events since August 2014, and while now is as good a time as any to end that run, his short price has elevated some others, providing good each way value elsewhere.
One of those players is Dean Burmester, who goes off at a big 50/1 despite his form here at the Earth Course reading 4-4-14. He did very little wrong with regard to those opening two years, with his stats across the board being exceptional, and in his 14th placed finish last year he lead the field in Strokes Gained Off The Tee, and was only let down by a wayward putting display.
He had no such problem in that regard last week on the Fire Course, where he ranked second for Strokes Gained Putting, though the low-scoring shootout didn’t suit him and on a more challenging track, he should be up in the mixer.
The South African has already won on the Tour this year, with that victory coming in hot conditions in Tenerife, following that win up with fourth and sixth placed finishes to prove he really can mix it with the best on this tour.
In the last two years he also has a third placed finish at the Dubai desert Classic, and an 11th at the Saudi International, highlighting his love for warm weather golf. Just two weeks ago he also took the title at the South African PGA, so confidence is at a high and his price looks far too long considering.
While there’s nothing by the way of course form to go off, it’s very hard to ignore the form of Min-Woo Lee. The Australian has made five successive cuts now and is on a run of 2-8-4 across Spain, Portugal and Dubai in recent weeks, and is another who enjoys his golf in hotter climates.
His putting has often been his downfall as his long game is up there with the best on Tour, though last week saw him gain more strokes on the field putting than he has done since his victory at the Scottish Open back in July.
His approach play let Lee down last week, though considering he gained nearly 10 strokes on the field in that regard in his previous two events, we’re happy to put that aspect of his game last week down as an anomaly, and if he can marry his long and shot game this week, he looks far too long at 30/1 in this restricted field, especially when he is still one of five players who has the incentive of winning the Race to Dubai.
Finally, it’s an even longer price about Adri Arnaus that takes our fancy. At 80/1 he’s certainly worth a flutter, especially considering he lives in Dubai and regularly harnesses his skillset on this course.
He comes into this off the back of an eighth placed finish in Portugal, which was a good recovery considering his heartbreak in losing in a play-off in his home Open just a month earlier.
The cream has tended to rise to the top in this tournament in recent years, though with just 53 players on show this week, each way places offer up some serious potential and Arnaus is up there with the best shouts to contend.
28th on debut isn’t anything to be sniffed at, especially when considering he followed that up with a top-10 finish on his second start last year. What’s more, he then finished 12th and ninth in a three event Dubai stretch, so it’s safe to say he enjoys these conditions.
DEAN BURMESTER E/W
MIN WOO LEE E/W
ADRI ARNAUS E/W