Prize Fund: $8,000,000
Winner’s Share: $985,476
Course: Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates (Par 72 – 7,675 yards)
So here we are then. The end of another season on the European Tour and what a 2014 it’s been. We’ve said goodbye to the lads across the pond and now the boys in Europe will have their farewell bid at one of the biggest tournaments in the calendar. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for us with a ridiculous amount of near misses, final day bottles mixed in with some healthy wins.
We all have one last chance to secure fantasy points, a cheeky pay day and enjoy the best the roster has to offer. And the best it will be. Rory McIlroy has confirmed he is teeing it up this week and will clearly head the betting in his own group we like to call ‘the unbackable ultras.’ His appearance is great for T.V viewing and we will all enjoy seeing where his game and mentality is in what will be a pretty pointless tournament.
Harsh words maybe, but let’s be honest, the overall Race To Dubai winner cannot be caught and his bonus pool money of around 2 million has already been pocketed. McIlroy will be playing with the freedom knowing he is the winner even though he hasn’t played in any of the 3 previous ‘Final Series’ events. Now, we have to say that of all the players at the top of the rankings, the Northern Irishman certainly deserves the crown. He has won 2 majors, the WGC Bridgestone and the flagship BMW PGA Championship. Those are 4 massive tournaments, so you cannot begrudge the win, BUT doesn’t it completely make the whole thing pretty pointless when he hasn’t had to play at all in the ‘crucial’ Final Series?
We had plenty of controversy last year with Charl Schwartzel threatening to quit the European Tour after not being allowed to play in the final event having failed to compete in 2 of the 3 before. We will all remember the farce surrounding Joost Luiten who infamously teed it up on the first and promptly withdrew in order to have played the required amount of events. So, in light of that, is this the logical answer? Is this the way forward for the Tour, trying to emulate a very successful FedEx Cup? For us, no, it’s just become even more pointless and ludicrous than before.
BUT moving on before we bore you with our thoughts and become liable for god knows what, let’s have a look at the reason we’re all here. To win ourselves some money!
The field is obviously strong yet limited, therefore it isn’t the easiest to get value, but looking at the course, it will take a specific type of player. The Earth Course is 1 of 4 at the Jumeirah Golf Estates and designed by Vijay Singh. It is an absolute monster at 7,675 yards and the par 72 will provide an interesting test. It may not be the most difficult of courses, because there are plenty of birdie opportunities throughout the 18, but there are water hazards everywhere that can defend the forthcoming attacks.
The fairways aren’t particularly narrow, so you will see bombers flexing their arms and you cannot help but think they will have a great say. When you look at the previous winners here, they can all hit the ball a long way. Henrik Stenson (2013), Rory McIlroy (2012), Alvaro Quiros (2011), Robbie Karlsson (2010) and Lee Westwood in 2009.
They were all spanking the ball during the victory, but interesting when you combine them with the top 10-15 everyone seemed to be hitting their GIR consistently as well. It is a vital tool to find your birdies, so if you are long and a good iron player, you’ll have every chance. Just look at those 5 names above – long and outstanding with an iron.
We hope we’ve found good value and we’re all crossing our fingers for one final payday extravaganza!
Victor Dubuisson (18/1 various)
With the tough market prices in a small 60-man field, there was always going to be one at short odds and for us it’s going to be Victor Dubuisson. The young Frenchman is a global name now having surged through the rankings in the past year, ending with a well-earned Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles.
He has played quite well over the past few weeks and whilst we were obviously concerned over his back having withdrawn from the WGC. However, an impressive outing last week in Turkey made it obvious it can’t have been that serious! He finished T15 and that was after a horrendous 1st day 77. He shot a majestic 64 on the Sunday and we just feel that gives him an edge with what he has to offer here. Because for everything he’s done recently, he hasn’t actually picked up a win since Turkey last year, so although he’s been ridiculously close, this would be the perfect way to cap an outstanding season.
Considering the course requires long hitting and quality iron play, you cannot help but be intrigued by an on-fire Dubuisson and during that final day last week, he was 10th for distance and 13th for GIR which is the perfect combination. He has also played here in the last 2 outings and shot 2 low rounds to finish T3 in 2013. Now obviously Henrik Stenson absolutely battered the tournament, but the Frenchman showed through his stats that the track suits his eye – barring his GIR on the 1st day, he was inside the top 6 for driving distance and GIR on all 4 days. That is impressive.
As we said before, it would be a truly memorable way for Victor to finish 2014.
Danny Willett (50/1 various)
After a very impressive 4th placed finish last week, we felt obliged and intrigued with the pick of Danny Willett over here. The Englishman is not the most consistent performer, hence why we don’t talk about him in that top bracket, but blimey when he’s on his day tee to green he is very dangerous.
He was hitting the ball ridiculously well last week, finding himself inside the top 7 everyday for both distance and GIR, apart from a 13th on Thursday off the tee. If he can bring anything close to that in Dubai then you could be looking at a cheeky finish for Willett. Admittedly, his odds have therefore been slashed which is not ideal, but you can understand it. We wouldn’t usually go there at those sorts of prices but when you’ve hit the ball that well in the week prior, you have to be interested.
His form before that has been impressive as well, T21 at the BMW Masters and T7 in Portugal either side of withdrawal in Australia.
He has played this course 3 times with only a top finish of T26, so not the greatest form, but we would like to think he has grown a lot in the 2 years since.
Branden Grace (80/1 various)
We obviously went with Branden Grace last week and after a really positive start he faltered and stumbled into a T19 finish. He was 2nd going into the weekend with 2 quality rounds, averaging over 300 yards both days and playing the consistent iron game we have become accustomed to.
Yes he faltered on Saturday dropping right out of it with a +1 score, but we still feel there should be enough in the South African tank for another challenge in Dubai. He is at the very healthy odds of 80s, which you cannot begrudge therefore for us, worth another stab.
He may not have found the top 10 for a number of months now, but he is edging closer. Simply put, he’s been unable to put 4 rounds together, so he just feels like one of those players that isn’t far away from a big performance. Sadly for him though, it’s obviously the end of the season now!
He has played here a couple of times before, recording a 6th place finish back in 2012 when he went into the weekend just 1 shot behind Rory McIlroy. He shot a 65 in the midst of that performance so that clearly proves he has the attributes for the test.
A very solid outside bet.
Stephen Gallacher (66/1 various)
We feel like Stephen Gallacher has become a slight enigma in recent months. We all know he deservedly made the Ryder Cup team after some fine battling performances in Italy and Czech Republic. But then on home turf he seemed to completely crumble under the enormous pressure and he hasn’t played quite as well since.
Undeniably it hasn’t been disastrous, but those title challenges have faded. So why would we consider him for Dubai? Well if you look at his finishes there has been a clear progression. T36, T24 then T15 last week. He has been hitting the ball better and better as the events whittle down, so much so that tee to green in Turkey he was an absolute beast. Inside the top 12 every day in all 3 of the perfect stats – driving accuracy and distance, as well as GIR. That is outrageous form. It’s the sort of game which will win this tournament with ease.
He only has a best finish of T16 in 3 outings here, but that finish came in 2012 when he did shoot a 66, so it shows he can perform on the Earth Course.
If he is anything like last week and can get that putter going again, this could be the return to form for the Scot.