The 2020 European Tour comes to a conclusion this week with the DP World Tour Championship as the final event on the tour’s Race to Dubai. The field takes a big hit at the top this week with John Rahm and Rory McIroy electing to shut it down and not play this week. Rahm, World No. 2, is the defending event and Race to Dubai winner, while McIlroy is World No. 4 and a two-time Dubai winner. Several other event qualifiers, including Louis Oosthuizen, Lucas Herbert, Paul Casey and Shane Lowry are also not participating.
Nevertheless, plenty of top players are teeing it up in Dubai, including six of the Official World Golf Ranking Top 20 players. Patrick Reed (9-1) has traveled to play the DP World Tour Championship in four of the last five years and finished runner-up to Danny Willett (50-1) two years ago. Tyrrell Hatton (12-1) has won an event on both sides of the pond in 2020 and has three top-10s in six appearances in Dubai. Tommy Fleetwood was runner-up in this event last year to Rahm and shares a 14-1 price with Viktor Hovland, who made birdie on the 72nd hole on Sunday to win the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico. PGA champion Collin Morikawa, who is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 7, makes his first overseas appearance of 2020. Matthew Fitzpatrick (16-1) won this event in 2016. Sungjae Im (18-1) primarily plays on the PGA Tour, but he rarely takes an event off and has managed to play 28 weeks in 2020 even with COVID-19 taking away three months of touring golf. Christiaan Bezuidenhout (20-1) has won back-to-back events in his native South Africa and comes into this week playing the best of any player in the field.
The DP World Tour Championship was established in 2009 as the Race to Dubai replaced the former European Tour Order of Merit. Global port operator DP World, based in Dubai, is the title sponsor. Only 50 players were in the field last year, but there will be 65 this week. Originally the top 60 in the Race to Dubai points were scheduled to play, but non-participants from the list created about a dozen spots for others to move into. In addition, players such as Viktor Hovland, Danny Willett, Jazz Janewattananond and Henrik Stenson gained entry by ranking in the OWGR Top 75.
Here are the Race to Dubai points leaders:
1. Patrick Reed 2,427.7
2. Tommy Fleetwood 1,967.7
3. Collin Morikawa 1,881.7
4. Lee Westwood 1,793.0
5. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 1,717.7
6. Victor Perez 1,713.9
7. Aaron Rai 1,688.2
8. Louis Oosthuizen 1,646.2 (not playing this week)
9. Tyrrell Hatton 1,453.0
10. Lucas Herbert 1332.4 (not playing this week)
The Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates has played host to this event every year since the tournament’s creation. It was designed by Greg Norman and opened in 2009. The track is a monster at 7,675 yards with two par-5s measuring over 620 yards, the tough par-4 ninth at 500 yards, plus the 195-yard par-3 17th, which plays to an island green. Greens are large, undulating Bermudagrass, which measure 12 feet, 6 inches on the stimpmeter. Water is in play on the final three holes, and there are 99 bunkers predominantly featured in the fairways. Although the course is long, it is fairly easy to score upon as the average winning score over the last 10 years is 19 to 20 under par. Nevertheless, ball strikers who are especially good with long irons should be successful, and being long off the tee never hurts either. Over the last 10 years, the winner has rated an average of sixth in the field in driving distance. Every winner ranked eighth or better in the category, except for Matthew Fitzpatrick in 2016 and Danny Willett last year, when both rated 16th in their respective fields. Course form also tends to matter as every winner dating to Alvaro Quiros in 2011 had at least a top-7 finish, with the exception of Jon Rahm winning in his course debut in 2017. Rahm did come in with two victories during that calendar year. By and large, players of some class tend to win this tournament, and you don’t see many longer shots in the winner’s circle.
2019: Jon Rahm (-19/269), 7/1
2018: Danny Willett (-18/270), 80/1
2017: Jon Rahm (-19/269), 12/1
2016: Matthew Fitzpatrick (-17/271), 66/1
2015: Rory McIlroy (-21/267), 5/1
2014: Henrik Stenson (-16/272), 17/2
2013: Henrik Stenson (-25/263), 11/1*
2012: Rory McIlroy (-23/265), 6/1
2011: Alvaro Quiros (-19/269), 40/1
2010: Robert Karlsson (-14/274), 50/1**
* - all-time tournament scoring record
** - playoff win over Ian Poulter
Matt Wallace 25-1
Wallace finished tied for second last week on the Fire Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in the Golf in Dubai Championship. He also has had success on the Earth Course with a runner-up finish two years ago.
He is also consistently good with the putter, ranking 11th in putts per GIR on the European Tour this season.
Bernd Wiesberger 25-1
Wiesberger finished eighth in last week’s event after a slow start with a first-round 70 left him nine shots behind leader Andy Sullivan’s 61.
He also finished a respectable fourth at the RSM Classic three weeks ago. His strong tee-to-green game (seventh on the European Tour with + 1.25 strokes gained per round) should make him a contender.
Robert MacIntyre 31-1
MacIntyre earned his first European Tour victory a month ago at the Cyprus Showdown.
He is absolutely striping and flushing it right now, as evidenced by him ranking 13th, second, first and second in the field for strokes gained: off the tee in his last four starts as well as ranking first, second, 25th and 10th in the field for strokes gained: tee to green in the same span.
Dean Burmester 80-1
Burmester comes in after a fourth-place finish in his native South Africa last weekend. He also has two fourths on this very course in 2017 and 2018.
The Earth Course is a big track, and Burmester ranks second in driving distance (329.8 yards) on the European Tour. He also ranks second on tour for strokes gained: putting with + 1.30 strokes gained per round.
U.S. Women’s Open
The final professional golf major of the year will take place this week in Houston with the U.S. Women’s Open, which was originally scheduled for June 4-7 but was postponed because of COVID-19. The LPGA and USGA have the rare opportunity to present their major with no opposition from an official PGA Tour event. World No. 2 Sei Young Kim (10-1) broke through and won her first major two months ago at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship by five strokes over two-time U.S. Open champion and World No. 5 Inbee Park (12-1). Kim has continued her solid form with a win three weeks ago at the Pelican Women's Championship. Danielle Kang (12-1), the World No. 4, comes in well-rested from six weeks off and won the first two events of the LPGA restart in August. Brooke Henderson (18-1) has finished sixth or better in each of her last four events. Hye-Jin Choi (18-1) plays primarily on the KLPGA Tour in Korea and won her last start four weeks ago. World No. 1 Jin Young Ko (18-1) has yet to win in 2020 but has four top-10s in her last five events and won two major championships (ANA Inspiration and Evian Championship) last year. Nelly Korda (18-1) is the highest-ranked American player in the world at No. 3 and nearly broke through to win her first major at the ANA in September but lost in a playoff, along with Henderson, to Mirim Lee (300-1). World No. 7 Nasa Hataoka (22-1) has finished seventh and third in this year’s majors.
The U.S. Women's Open ordinarily serves as one of five majors in women's golf, but this year it will be the third and last of the year as both the Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship were canceled because of COVID-19. The U.S. Open has the largest purse in women’s golf at $5.5 million with the winner’s share being $1 million.
The U.S. Women’s Open will be played on two courses at the Champions Golf Club in Houston. Each player will play the Jackrabbit Course for one of the first two rounds and play the Cypress Creek Course for the remaining three rounds. This arrangement is being made mainly because of early darkness this time of year. We saw this several weeks ago at the Masters with players teeing off on the front and back nines to ensure that rounds were completed before dark. The Jackrabbit Course was designed by George Fazio in 1964 and renovated by nephew Tom Fazio in 2002 and again by Tom Fazio associate Beau Welling earlier this year. It is the shorter of the courses as a par-71 of 6,558 yards. Water is in play on 11 holes and Bermudagrass covers the entire course. The rough will be U.S. Open-standard 3 inches, and the greens will be fast (12 stimpmeter) and undulating. The Cypress Creek course was designed by Ralph Plummer in 1958 and renovated by Chet Williams in 2018. Cypress Creek is also a par-71, but it’s a bit longer at 6,731 yards. Water is in play on 12 holes and there are more doglegs here than on the Jackrabbit. Cypress Creek is also constructed with Bermudagrass, but the greens are larger (9,600-square-foot average) vs. the greens on the Jackrabbit (7,000-square-foot average). Aside from more length, Cypress Creek is the tougher of the courses with more trouble spots.
2019: Jeongeun Lee6 (-6/278), Country Club of Charleston
2018: Ariya Jutanugarn (-11/277), Shoal Creek
2017: Sung-Hyun Park (-11/277), Trump National
2016: Brittany Lang (-6/282), CordeValle
2015: In Gee Chun (-8/280), Lancaster
2014: Michelle Wie (-2/278), Pinehurst No. 2
2013: Inbee Park (-8/280), Sebonack
2012: Na Yeon Choi (-7/281), Blackwolf Run
2011: So Yeon Ryu (-3/281), Broadmoor
2010: Paula Creamer (-3/281), Oakmont
TRENDS AND ANGLES
South Korean players have won eight of the last 12 U.S. Women’s Opens and currently hold 10 of the top 20 spots in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
— Only two winners not from either South Korea or the United States have won the U.S. Open since 2002: Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand in 2018 and Annika Sorenstam of Sweden in 2006.
— Seven of the last 10 winners ranked in the top 10 or better for scoring average during the year of their respective U.S. Open victories.
2020 Scoring Average Leaders
Sei Young Kim, 68.11
Brooke Henderson, 69.21
Danielle Kang, 69.59
Nasa Hataoka, 69.67
Inbee Park, 69.76
Nelly Korda, 70.09
Lydia Ko, 70.15
Carlota Ciganda, 70.30
Moriya Jutanugarn, 70.43
Lexi Thompson, 70.49
Jin Young Ko 18-1
She won two majors last year but suffered an ankle injury at the end of 2019 and was still recuperating in early 2020. Just as she was set to return in the spring, COVID-19 hit and the comeback was delayed. She started out on the KLPGA Tour a couple of months ago to get acclimated to playing again before returning stateside. A top-5 last time out indicates that she's getting closer to the championship form that got her to the current No. 1 world ranking.
Nasa Hataoka 25-1
The 21-year-old Japanese star is seeking her first major and is inching closer with a third at the Women’s PGA Championship and a T-7 at the ANA Inspiration. She is one the top players in the world (No. 7) and appears ready for her breakthrough.
So Yeon Ryu 25-1
A former World No. 1, she ranks 14th and hadn’t played a stateside LPGA event since February until last week, when she was the 54-hole leader in Dallas and ended up tied for second.
Stacy Lewis 100-1
At 35, Lewis' prime golfing years are mostly in the past, but she did win the Scottish Open earlier this year, and this week is a home event for her, just 45 minutes from her residence near Houston. In fact, Lewis is a member at the Champions Golf Club.
The PGA Tour’s official events have concluded for 2020, but some unofficial events remain, including the QBE Shootout, which most fans know as the Shark Shootout from the 1990s and 2000s. Twelve teams of two will compete in a format that involves a scramble, alternate shot and four-ball. Here are the teams and their respective odds:
Abraham Ancer and Matthew Wolff: 6-1
Cameron Champ and Tony Finau: 13-2
Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson: 7-1
Sebastian Munoz and Joaquin Niemann: 8-1
Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith: 8-1
Billy Horschel and Brendon Todd: 8-1
Harris English and Matt Kuchar: 8-1
Daniel Berger and Steve Stricker: 12-1
Lanto Griffin and Mackenzie Hughes: 12-1
Ryan Palmer and Harold Varner III: 14-1
Rory Sabbatini and Kevin Tway: 16-1
Kevin Na and Sean O'Hair: 35-1
College rivals Harris English (Georgia) and Matt Kuchar (Georgia Tech) have teamed up here five times (2013-2017) and won the event in 2016. Rory Sabbatini and Kevin Tway, the defending champions, are back. Billy Horschel and Brendon Todd finished T3 here last year, as did the returning team of Ryan Palmer and Harold Varner III. Todd and Horschel also both finished in the top 10 last week at the Mayakoba.
The Shootout began in 1989 at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and is traditionally hosted by Greg Norman. After a one-year sojourn to Doral Resort & Spa in 2000, the Shootout has been played every year on the Norman-designed Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla. The Shootout’s unique format is as follows:
Round 1: Scramble (players both tee off, select best ball, then both play a shot from there; process repeated until hole is complete)
Round 2: Modified alternate shot (also known as “Scotch foursomes,” which is like traditional foursomes except both players tee off before the best ball is selected; alternate shots thereafter)
Round 3: Four-ball (traditional better ball, with both players playing their own ball as it lies, and the best score on each hole counts)
The QBE Shootout will be held on the Gold Course at the Tiburon Golf Club. The course plays as a par-72 of 7,382 yards. It was designed by Norman and is owned and operated by Troon Golf. The Gold Course also has hosted the LPGA Tour season-ending event, the CME Group Tour Championship, since 2013. The players will be playing for a $3.3 million prize pool, and the winners will receive between $450,000 and $500,000 each.
2019: Rory Sabbatini and Kevin Tway (-31/185)
2018: Patton Kizzire and Brian Harman (-30/186)
2017: Sean O’Hair and Steve Stricker (-26/190)
2016: Harris English and Matt Kuchar (-28/188)
2015: Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker (-30/186)
2014: Jason Day and Cameron Tringale (-32/184)
2013: Harris English and Matt Kuchar (-34/182)
2012: Sean O’Hair and Kenny Perry (-31/185)
2011: Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele (-32/184)
2010: Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter (-32/184)
2009: Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker (-26/190)
Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson, 7-1
The 2012 Masters playoff opponents (Watson won) combine to team up for the first time here. Oosthuizen chose to play here rather than travel to Dubai.
Daniel Berger and Steve Stricker, 12-1
Both finished in the top 25 last week at the Mayakoba (Berger 23rd, Stricker 17th). Stricker is now 53 and playing more on the Champions circuit, but he is still one of the best putters in the world and perfect for a format like this with a talented, young player like Berger. Stricker won this event three years ago with a way more out-of-form player in Sean O'Hair.