His Race to Dubai chances disintegrated, Rory McIlroy is favourite in the DP World Tour Championship betting, as the European Tour concludes this weekend in Dubai itself.
A bit like a traveller in the ancient world, to be a follower of golf requires you to be cognisant with multiple calendars. So, whilst most of us still have six weeks until Christmas, the PGA Tour is six weeks into 2019 and the European Tour is celebrating the end of 2018.
However muddled the dates, no-one can argue that it has been a staggering year for Italy's Francesco Molinari, who has transformed himself from a strong tour performer into an elite event winner, then a Major champion and, finally, a continental hero in victory over the Americans at the Ryder Cup in Paris.
Victory, or solo second this week would mathematically assure Molinari of the Race to Dubai crown, but even should that not happen, second Tommy Fleetwood needs to win and Molinari finish worse than tied fifth (with one player) for the Englishman to wrench the trophy out of his friend's hands.
A 10th return to the Greg Norman-designed, Michael Jackson-inspired Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Okay, so the first of those facts is true and the second pure speculation, but what we do know for sure is that: at 7,675-yards, the layout is long on length and short on finesse. The final two par-5s on the layout, for example, are a massive 626- and 620-yards respectively.
That yardage matters because, with the notable exception of 2016 winner Matthew Fitzpatrick, all of the champions ranked top eight for Driving Distance, and even he joined them in averaging at least 297.50 yards from the tee in the week of their win.
The first seven winners produced two strong trends: all had already tasted success in the Middle East and all of them had finished top 10 in their previous two starts. Matthew Fitzpatrick and Jon Rahm fitted neither, however.
Despite those last two winners, I'm going to utilise those long-term patterns, seeking a player who has shown strong recent form and proven himself in the region. Inevitably, a few of the favourites are immediately highlighted: Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Hao Tong Li and Lee Westwood.
Danny Willett (75/1 Bet365) is also thrown up, but he's struggled on the course when in the form of his life and has never really putted well there. Rafa Cabrera Bello (28/1 William Hill) is also of interest, but his excellent greens in regulation stats on the course are off-set by poor putting and poor distance numbers - it seems he finds plenty of greens, but from so far back he can't get it close enough to drain the birdies.
Which leads to Martin Kaymer (55/1 Paddy Power), who left the Turkish Airlines in a very chipper mood, talked himself up and then promptly carded an ugly 76 in round one of the Nedbank Challenge. Golf's curse of high expectation had hit again.
But he responded with 69-71-71 for T21 and his words in Turkey might be worth recalling. "The game was spot on this week," he said. "I'm very close."
His course record is a little too consistent (six top 20s but a best of only 10th). However, he's a multiple winner in the desert and he's comfortable going low. He's available at 55/1 with Paddy Power, who pay out down to sixth place.
The head of the DP World Tour Championship betting is a head-scratcher. Rory McIlroy, priced at odds of 9/1 with Coral, is a two-time course winner in horrible form, Sergio Garcia (11/1 BetVictor) is a recent winner, who has one top five in seven courses visits.
Tommy Fleetwood (14/1 Betway) and Francesco Molinari (20/1 William Hill) are Race-to-Dubai-distracted, and also have had issues with the Jumeirah greens, Jon Rahm (12/1 888 Sport) has played just once since the Ryder Cup, and Henrik Stenson (22/1 Paddy Power) hasn't even done that.
So it might make more sense to support a man who in just two seasons at the top level has proved himself fond of big-time golf.
Xander Schauffele (16/1 Bet365) announced himself fully to the world of golf in 2017. His second top five at PGA Tour level came in the US Open, three weeks later he went ultra-low to win the Greenbrier Classic, and at the end of the season he claimed the Tour Championship.
This year he finished runner-up in the Players' Championship, was sixth in the US Open, second in the Open, and last time out he snatched a first World Golf Championship success in the HSBC Champions. He hits a long ball, is not scared of making birdies or pocketing large prize funds, and is content in the limelight. He's 16/1 with Bet365 (paying five places), or 14/1 with Paddy Power, who pay that extra place.
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