The Race to Dubai is set up for a brilliant finale this week, with Rory McIlroy aiming to crown a superb year by completing a double double at the DP World Tour Championship.
McIlroy claimed the PGA Tour’s season-long prize, the FedEx Cup, by winning its final event, the Tour Championship, in August and he would surely love to do the same at the European circuit’s equivalent in Dubai on Sunday.
The Northern Irishman would be the most fitting winner, having had an extraordinarily consistent year. From 21 events he has won three and finished in the top 10 in 14.
There aren’t many players performing better than the world No1 at the moment. I’m excited to see how he plays on a course that he knows well and where he has won twice before, in 2012 and 2015.
McIlroy is top of the standings but not by much, and mathematically any one of nine could claim the Race to Dubai with victory at the final event. More realistically, it will probably be one of the top five in the points list, which also includes Ryan Fox, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland.
Fox has had an incredible year, climbing from outside the top 200 in the world ranking to his current position of 24th with two wins and four runner-up finishes.
One of those came on Sunday at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, where the New Zealander was unlucky to be pipped by Fleetwood. His only bogey of the final round came at the 18th and opened the door for Fleetwood to win by one shot.
But he remains on a red-hot run, having finished in the top five in Mallorca on his previous outing despite a few hiccups.
Fox is 35 so by no means a newcomer but seems to be realising now what he is capable of. He comes from a family of fantastic sportsmen, with his father a former All Black and his grandfather captaining New Zealand in Test cricket, and he has clearly got it in him too.
He’s a hard worker who hits the ball a mile and has an excellent short game. He’ll be ready to come up against the king, McIlroy, this week.
US Open champion Fitzpatrick has, of course, also had a terrific year. That first major is a huge feather in the Englishman’s cap and he has looked a different player since that landmark win at Brookline in June.
Fitzpatrick never looks like hitting a bad shot, in part because he has got such a great repetitive swing. He is also a two-time winner of the DP World Tour Championship, in 2016 and 2020, but is seeking his first Race to Dubai title.
Fleetwood put himself in contention for a second Race to Dubai crown with a fantastic victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, his first since 2019.
Three years is a long time for someone of his quality to go without a win but, as they say, form is only temporary and class is permanent. I’m sure it won’t be another three years until he wins his next tournament.
Fleetwood was a wonderful part of Europe’s last home Ryder Cup in France and will be desperate to be part of Luke Donald’s side in Rome next year. This win at Sun City has propelled him up the standings and he will be over the moon.
Can Fox, Fitzpatrick, Fleetwood or even Hovland catch McIlroy? Yes, but he won’t make it easy for them.
Finau finds winning touch
I once asked the great Tom Watson, when playing alongside him at the Open, what pushed him to keep achieving more and more. His reply: “I learned how to win.”
That’s where Tony Finau is after he won his third PGA Tour title in his last seven starts on Sunday at the Houston Open. Having gone five years without a win until August 2021, he is now playing phenomenal golf.
Finau led from start to finish in Texas and, although he won by four in the end, was eight shots ahead at the turn. He is not just winning but playing so well and is another who really benefits from having a very repetitive swing.
Harrington and Alker shine on Champions Tour
Padraig Harrington capped a wonderful rookie year on the PGA Champions Tour by claiming his fourth title of the season at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Sunday.
Harrington, 51, quipped last week that he wants to play until he’s 80. One of the favourites every time he plays on the Champions Tour, he must be having a wonderful time.
If anyone had a better weekend it was Steven Alker, whose third place finish was enough to win the Schwab Cup.
Alker has played unbelievable golf all year and his winnings in just over a year on the Champions Tour now dwarf what he earned on the PGA Tour.
Sam Torrance OBE is a former Ryder Cup-winning captain and one of Europe’s most successful golfers. Follow him @torrancesam