2023 DP World Tour Championship: Four storylines to follow with Rory McIlroy already clinching Race to Dubai

The upside of not handicapping your season-ending event like the PGA Tour does is that it provides a clearer picture of who the best golfer on your tour was throughout the year. The downside, at least for the DP World Tour this year, is that the season-long race can be over before the season-ending tournament begins.

Rory McIlroy has wrapped up his fifth Race to Dubai title ahead of this week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. He is nearly 2,100 points ahead of Jon Rahm, who is currently in second but does not have a chance to catch McIlroy even with a win at the DP World Tour Championship.

“It’s really nice to have my name on the Harry Vardon Trophy for the fifth time and just be one behind Seve and still a few behind [Colin Montgomerie],” said McIlroy on Tuesday. “You’re talking about the greats of the European game, and to be up alongside them is really … if someone had told 18-year-old Rory when I was making my professional debut in 2007 that I would have won five order of merits up to this point, I wouldn’t have believed them.

“Really, really cool. I certainly don’t take it for granted, and you know, it shows the consistency that I’ve played with over the last few years that even though I feel like I’ve had a good year, I don’t feel like I’ve had a great year, but I can still go ahead and achieve things like this.”

The truth is that McIlroy is having one of the two best years he’s ever had, according to Data Golf’s strokes gained metric (the other came in 2022). That has not resulted in a major either year, but it has resulted in a handful of wins, including one in January at the Dubai Desert Classic and one in July at the Scottish Open. Both of those, as well as three top-10 finishes at the major championships, contributed to McIlroy’s fifth Race to Dubai trophy.

McIlroy is one of just three golfers who have won the Race to Dubai — formerly the order of merit — five or more times.

1  Colin Montgomerie 8
2  Seve Ballesteros 6
3  Rory McIlroy 5
4  Peter Oosterhuis 4
T5  Lee Westwood 3
T5 Sandy Lyle 3
T5 Bernard Hunt 3
T5 Bobby Locke 3

While that portion of the year is locked up, there is still a lot to follow as the DP World Tour Championship gets underway on Thursday. With the season coming to a close and several golfers touching off the best years of their career, here’s what to look out for as the tournament begins.

1. Tour’s Top 10

The top 10 players in the rankings who do not already have their PGA Tour cards for 2024 will receive them this weekend. That list currently includes Adrian Meronk, Ryan Fox, Victor Perez, Thorbjorn Olesen, Alexander Bjork, Sam Valimaki, Robert MacIntyre, Jorge Campillo, Ryo Hisatsune and Rasmus Hojgaard. There is a lot of golf left to be played, though, and any number of players just outside that top 10 could unseat one of the bottom few at this event. Perhaps even more important is the race for first because whomever finishes at the top (currently Meronk) is fully exempt on the PGA Tour next season, according to Golf Digest, and will not be subject to any reshuffling throughout.

2. Event champion

Though the season-long race is over, there is still the matter of determining the champion of this particular event (think: the Tour Championship as a tournament vs. the FedEx Cup as an overall competition). The champions list has been incredible over the last 11 years with names such as Jon Rahm (3x), Collin Morikawa, Matt Fitzpatrick (2x), Danny Willett, Rory McIlroy (2x) and Henrik Stenson (2x).

3. Closing kick

Both Jon Rahm (four worldwide wins) and Viktor Hovland (three worldwide wins) have had arguably the best overall years of anyone in this field. While McIlroy winning would be fitting given that he has already has the Race to Dubai, either Rahm or Hovland taking the trophy would feel like a proper outcome as well, especially given how all three performed at the Ryder Cup. In fact, anyone who’s not one of those three winning this tournament would be a pretty big surprise.

4. Flushing Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood has had his best season since 2019 and seems to have completely bounced back from his issues off the tee in recent years. One thing he’s lacked is a win, however, racking up six top fives worldwide but no trophies. This would be a lucrative spot for it as the champion receives $3 million of the $10 million purse, massive numbers for the European Tour. And while Fleetwood has not had the season McIlroy, Rahm or Hovland has had, it would be nice to see him win his first DP World Tour Championship after a number of close calls. 


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