Jon Rahm hoping to dominate again in Dubai but Rory McIlroy will take home the big prize

In four previous appearances in the championship, Jon Rahm sealed the deal on three occasions

The way the cards have been dealt, with Rory McIlroy untouchable in terms of collecting the Harry Vardon Trophy for the order of merit title, the season-closing DP Tour World Championship itself will need to be the focus for all others, most especially for Jon Rahm, the defending champion.

The Spaniard – winner of the Masters in April, one of four wins on the PGA Tour but the only one which also counted towards the Race to Dubai standings – only played the Spanish Open following on from his Ryder Cup endeavours but aims to embellish his reputation over The Earth course at Jumeirah golf resort in Dubai.

In four previous appearances in the championship, Rahm sealed the deal on three occasions. His quest for a fourth win would appear to feed the fuel given that his prospects of catching and overtaking McIlroy for the order of merit disappeared before the season-ending tournament even got going.

“It’s something I look forward to, a great way to end the year. One last competition before we get to the holiday season and get our mind off golf for a bit. It’s a favourite way to end [the season] and hopefully, I can win it one more time. It’s a ball-strikers’ course. You have certain shots off the tee that you can take advantage of and you can be way more aggressive into some of those greens,” said Rahm.


Rahm’s dominant displays in the past around the Greg Norman-designed course tell a story: he was 19 under in winning in 2017 (his debut appearance); 19 under when winning his second title in 2019, and 20 under when outduelling Tyrrell Hatton and Alex Noren a year ago.

There are 10 members of the winning European Ryder Cup team in the field – Ludvig Åberg, competing in the RSM Classic on the PGA Tour, and Justin Rose are the missing two – while a subplot of sorts is due to play out with 10 players set to claim full PGA Tour cards for next season through a new policy partnership between the two tours.

Tom McKibbin, a winner of the Porsche European Open, is currently in 41st place on the Race to Dubai standings but, with 2,000 points to the winner in the desert, the 20-year-old Ulsterman could yet play his way into the 10.

Shane Lowry hasn’t played since the Ryder Cup but returns to a course where he has played well – including a runner-up finish to Rahm in 2017 – and also set to put his clubs away for the winter once the tournament is over.

Rahm, meanwhile, understood why McIlroy would stand down from his role on the PGA Tour’s policy board: “I don’t know the exact reason he left the board but I certainly wouldn’t blame somebody like him to just want to focus a bit more on his game and his family and enjoy the bit of time he’s truly earned. It’s a big commitment for somebody to be a part of it. Did I expect it? Not really. But I can understand where somebody would do it, especially with everything that’s involved.”

In truth, Rahm is one of those who let their clubs do the talking for the most part. Especially when he sets foot on the Earth course, where his record is second to none.

DP World Tour Championship lowdown

Purse: €11.5 million (€3 million to the winner)

Where: Dubai, UAE

The course: Established as the traditional season-ending venue, The Earth Course – 7,706 yards, par 72 – is a Greg Norman-design that manages to integrate lush fairways and copious water features/hazards in a desert landscape. The Great White Shark once described the stretch of four finishing holes from the 15th as the “most challenging mile” in golf which can be taken with a degree of hyperbole, given other more penal ones like the Bear Trap at PGA National or the Snake Pit at Innisbrook. Nevertheless, it is still a fine finish, especially the risk-reward par-five 18th hole that features a meandering brook that effectively divides the fairway into two options for the player off the tee and with water also in play on the approach to the green.

The field: Definitely plenty of star quality in the limited 50-man field with world number two Rory McIlroy, number three Jon Rahm and number four Viktor Hovland providing the X-factor in the final event of the European Tour’s season. Where last year any one of seven players had a chance of topping the order of merit, this year’s destination is already a done deal with McIlroy claiming a fifth career Harry Vardon Trophy. The tournament itself, however, has status and should ensure a competitive four days while there are also 10 PGA Tour cards on offer.

Quote-Unquote: “I took my mom to a restaurant in Malta and we went there and hung out and ate good food and checked out some places and went sightseeing a little bit.” – Viktor Hovland not losing the run of himself after pocketing his $18 million pay-day from winning the FedEx Cup. The Norwegian is playing for the first time since the Ryder Cup.

Irish in the field: Shane Lowry is paired with Julien Brun (5am Irish time), Tom McKibbin, who is making his debut in the championship, is paired with Ewen Ferguson (5.10am); while Rory McIlroy is paired with Jon Rahm (8.45am).

Betting: No surprise that Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland dominate the top end of the market, with McIlroy – a two-timer winner of the tournament – at 4-1 and defending champion Rahm priced at 11-2 and Hovland at 6-1, although it will be interesting to see if there is much if any rust in their play. Min Woo Lee has kept busy of late (winner in Macao, top-10 in the Zozo in Japan) and is worth a look at 16-1. In terms of each-way value, Matthieu Pavon is 100-1.

On TV: Live on Sky Sports (live coverage from 7am).

CME Globe LPGA Tour Championship lowdown

Purse: €6.45 million (€1.75 million to the winner)

Where: Naples, Florida

The course: Tiburón Golf Club (Gold Course) – 6,556 yards, par 72 – is a Greg Norman-design (Tiburón is the Spanish word for shark) and has played host to the LPGA Tour Championship since 2013. The course is a certified nature sanctuary. Unusually, the bunkers are filled with coquina shell waste rather than sand and also feature turf sods in the formation of the traps’ walls.

The field: Strange indeed that the LPGA Tour’s finale won’t feature either of Lydia Ko – who won this tournament last year – or Lexi Thompson, neither player managing to make the top-60 on the money list this season. Lilia Vu’s win in The Annika returned her to number one in the world rankings and moved her within touching distance of Celine Boutier in the CME Globe season rankings which will be decided after this tournament.

Quote-Unquote: “[You can] let the game get a bit too involved in your life. I’ve had a really great balance. I have been able to balance it quite well and leave it at the golf course more than take it with me when I go home or back to my hotel.” – Minjee Lee, a two-time winner this season, on getting the right balance.

Irish in the field: Leona Maguire is paired with Megan Khang (tee-time 4.15pm Irish time).

Betting: Atthaya Thitikul hasn’t won since the Arkansas Championship back in September 2022 but her recent form – three top-fives in her last seven tournaments – has her topping the market at 9-1 with world number one Lilia Vu (a four-timer winner on the LPGA Tour this season) priced at 10-1, which looks decent given she brings the momentum of a win in The Annika with her. Leona Maguire, a runner-up to Ko last year, is worth noting at 28-1.

On TV: Live on Sky Sports (live coverage 8pm, earlier coverage from 7pm on the red button).

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times