Burnout strikes as elite names opt out of World Tour Championship

Jon Rahm among those opting to recharge the batteries after an exhausting campaign

It isn't always about money, as the field for this week's European Tour season-ending DP World Tour Championship – where in excess of €12 million will be divvied out – has shown with a number of big name players, most notably world number one Jon Rahm, opting to leave the tournament off their itineraries.

Viktor Hovland has also stayed away. So too Justin Rose.

In citing the reason for being a no show, Rahm explained: “The demands of a long season with many ups and downs has taken a lot out of me. I feel I need to take time to recharge my batteries while spending quality time with my family.”

It was only last month – after a missed cut at the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama – that Rahm announced that he didn’t want to see sight of a golf club and the demands, on body and mind, placed on the Spaniard are increasingly experienced across the board among the elite who are criss-crossing time zones and juggling tour cards on both sides of the Atlantic.

Rahm, in fact, played 21 tournaments this year – whilst also twice contracting Covid-19 – and others have played even more often. Hovland, another of the stayaways, has played 25 times. Shane Lowry, one of two Irish players along with Rory McIlroy to make it to the season finale in the United Emirates, has also played 25 times (the demands notable in the past two weeks with successive missed cuts for the first time all year), while McIlroy has played 22 times.

McIlroy, at least, has taken time out recently. The Northern Irishman last played in the CJ Cup, which he won, a month ago; and, since then, has spent his time at home in Florida and, most pertinently in terms of where his golf game is headed, has renewed his partnership with coach Michael Bannon.

This week's outing in Dubai won't, however, be the last tournament appearance this year for McIlroy as he has accepted an invitation to play in next month's Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas (a tournament hosted by Tiger Woods which is an unofficial event on the PGA Tour).

The DP World Tour Championship has a purse of €7.7 million ($9m), while the bonus pool – which will be spread between the leading five players on the Race to Dubai order of merit after the tournament – has a further €4.3m ($5m) at play.

Collin Morikawa, the British Open champion, and Billy Horschel, who made a winning raid on the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, are one-two in the standings and on target for one of them to become the first American to win the European Tour order of merit.

The LPGA Tour’s season also draws to a close this week, with the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida. The limited field event has a purse of €4.3 million ($5m) with Leona Maguire – making it to the season finale for a second straight year – the sole Irish player competing.

Nelly Korda, the world number one and Olympic gold medallist, who also claimed a breakthrough Major title this year when winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, will aim to finish in style in the Tour Championship to cap off when she has called “a crazy year.”

“I’ve put in a lot of work, but mentally being in these positions and playing week-in and week-out under the pressure definitely takes a toll on you,” said Korda of the demands, adding: “I think mentally I feel like I’ve just learned more about myself (this year). I also learned to take some time off and step away from the game, because I was burnt out after the Solheim (Cup) and mentally so fatigued. I just learned more about myself and what I need to do possibly going into the upcoming seasons.”

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times

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