Five players in contention for jackpot in Dubai
Wiesberger in pole position in Race to Dubai but Lowry among those poised to pounce
Shane Lowry during a practice round for the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
The shoot-out will be just that, as the finale to the PGA European Tour’s season has given five players – Bernd Wiesberger, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Shane Lowry and Matt Fitzpatrick – the opportunity to hit the jackpot when the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai this week brings the curtain down on a season that featured 47 tournaments globally.
While the DP World Tour Championship itself has a top prize of $3million to the winner, whoever scoops the Race to Dubai title will earn a bonus of $2million.
In short, this is exactly how the European Tour mandarins envisaged things when piling the greenbacks into the end-of-season series of tournaments, a chance to step out of the shadows of the big brother PGA Tour stateside and to grab the spotlight.
Shane Lowry’s decision to miss out on the Nedbank Championship now looks like the sensible move, for the British Open champion – who recharged his batteries on a family holiday in Dubai – has destiny in his own hands heading into the final tournament.
Although down to fourth in the standings, the numbers game at the season’s finale are such that a win would make for double delight, while a sole runner-up finish would also give him the chance to claim the order of merit title (depending on who wins, of course, and where Wiesberger finishes).
The mathematics of the final run-in give Wiesberger’s closest pursuers a chance if the Austrian finishes towards the bottom end of the 50-man field: Fleetwood would need a solo third or better; Rahm would need a two-way tie for second or better; Lowry would need a solo second or better; while Fitzpatrick would need to win the Tour Championship.
Wiesberger is in the driving seat, and a solo second or better would give him the number one position regardless of what the other players do.
With 2,000 order of merit points available to the winner in Dubai, there remains the potential for any of the top-five to claim the bonus jackpot: Wiesberger is 823 points clear of Fleetwood in second and is 1,482 points ahead of fifth-placed Fitzpatrick.
The $3 million winner’s prize for the tournament itself is the largest ever on the European Tour, while the bonus pool – $2 million to whoever finishes first in the Race to Dubai final standings, $1.25 to second, $750,000 to third, $600,000 to fourth and $400,000 to fifth – is confined to the leading five players on the season-long campaign after the DP World.
Lowry played a practice round on the Earth course alongside Rory McIloy on Monday ahead of the tournament. McIlroy – a two-time winner of the tournament, in 2012 and 2015 – hasn’t played since winning the HSBC Championship in Shanghai last month and, currently sixth on the Race to Dubai standings, cannot catch Wiesberger.
Fleetwood’s win in Sun City enabled the Englishman to leapfrog into second position.
“The closer it gets to the end of the season, the harder it is to stay in the present, do your things and concentrate on what you do best. I’m happy for the challenge, feel like I am ready,” he said of the upcoming task of chasing down Wiesberger.
Race to Dubai winners (since its inception in 2009)
2009 – Lee Westwood
2010 – Martin Kaymer
2011 – Luke Donald
2012 – Rory McIlroy
2013 – Henrik Stenson
2014 – Rory McIlroy
2015 – Rory McIlroy
2016 - Henrik Stenson
2017 - Tommy Fleetwood
2018 - Francesco Molinari