Here we are, the last event of the 2013 European Tour season, and oh my it feels strange to write that. This is my first season of doing these weekly previews, and I’ve loved every single minute of it. Of course, there are tournaments next week, in South Africa and much like the PGA Tour, there is golf to be enjoyed right up until the end of the year, but officially we are waving goodbye to the 2013 European Tour season.
It has been a great season, and the drama is not over yet, with the Race To Dubai winner still to be decided, and there are nine players still capable of taking the coveted prize. Here is the link from the European Tour website, explaining each scenario for the nine possible winners. There are three players who’s fate lies in their own hands, because if Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose or Graeme McDowell win this week, they will also win the Race To Dubai. The other player who can really throw the cat among the pigeons is Ian Poulter, because if he was to win, Stenson would have to finish 2nd to him in order to keep his place, therefore winning the Race to Dubai. These players are in the group of the very best players in the world, and therefore the battle between them to get the job done will be fascinating to watch.
We have already seen Stenson take home the FedEx Cup trophy, after winning the season-ending Tour Championship, at East Lake, and he’ll be hoping to do the same this week. What was most impressive was that Stenson won, with a wrist injury, one he is still suffering with this week. Beware the injured golfer.
The favourite this week is Rory Mcilroy, who will hope to get his first win of the 2013 season, in his very last event, and if you believe he will do so, he’s 7/1 best price. Also 7/1 is U.S Open champion Justin Rose, and he is followed in the betting by current Race To Dubai leader Henrik Stenson 12/1, Ian Poulter 12/1 and Martin Kaymer who comes in at 18/1. This makes up the market leaders, and it’s 25/1 and bigger the rest of the field and there’s definitely value to be had. There’s only 56 players in the field, due to three players in the top 60 not competing in 2 of the past 3 “Final Series” events, and one withdrawal due to injury. The three players who should be playing are Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia, who all failed to meet the minimum requirements, and Els especially has been very vocal about the rule. The other player missing in the field is Alex Noren, who is still struggling with an injury.
At 7,675 yards, the Earth Course is an absolute monster, so obviously it will favour bigger hitters, and if we’re looking at the four previous winners, Rory Mcilroy (2012), Alvaro Quiros (2011), Robert Karlsson (2010) and Lee Westwood (2009) they all hit if far enough off the tee, with Westwood ranking the lowest of the four winners at 8th in Driving Distance, the week they won. You’re going to have to make plenty of birdies to win here, with -23 being the winner score in both the first and last edition of this event, and -14 being the highest winning score, -16 the other. The score is, much like last week, likely to be around the -20 mark, and of course to get to that score you’re going to have to putt well. Although long hitters will have an advantage against the rest of the field, shorter hitters have done well here, notably Luke Donald who has finished, T3, 3rd, T9 and T37, so you can get round even if you lack the fire power from the tee box. Current form will more likely than not be important this week, as each of the four winners here had won already, earlier in the respective seasons, and that is something I kept in mind when making my final selections.
This week has every component necessary to make it a fantastic tournament, with the Race To Dubai far from settled, and the amount of birdies that will have to be made to compete, particular highlights for me. This should lead to aggressive play from those challenging for the Race To Dubai title, and good play from players who can get on with their own games, as they are outside of that sub-plot. It would be no surprise to see one of the top 5 in the betting get the win, however I feel there may be less pressure on players outside of that situation in the first couple of days, and therefore could lead to some impressive early scoring. There’s definitely some good odds available, if you’re happy to look past the favourites and to an extent that’s what I have done with my picks.
I for one am really excited about the event, and hopefully for us we can end the season on a high, finding a winner and keeping in good profit for the year. Here are my selections for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
Jamie Donaldson 25/1 (General) 2pts e/w: I was hoping for a slightly bigger price on the Welshman, and this did make my decision a lot harder, but I’ve had him mind for this event since his T6 finish in the Portugal Masters, and after his great effort last week I couldn’t leave him out.
Donaldson finished runner-up to eventual winner, Victor Dubuisson last week, which was in no small part down to his hole in one, on the 16th hole on the final day. He also had an eagle putt on the last, which in the end would still of left him one shy of a play-off, but that final round last week, capped off what has been another impressive year from Donaldson.
Donaldson got his second European Tour win early on this season, in Abu Dhabi, back in January and that should give him massive confidence coming into this week here in the neighbouring city of Dubai. Apart from his victory, he has posted 5 top 10s, including his 2nd last week, and 8th the week before in the WGC-HSBC event. He is certainly in form, and I think his game is in great shape to compete here this week, especially as he’s proved he can play this course already. With him playing each year, since the inaugural event in 2009, we can get a good guide as to how he performs here at the Earth Course. He finished T9 in 2012, T26 in 2011, T48 in 2010 and T23 back in 2009, so it is, a mixed bag of results. I do however believe that Donaldson has gone from strength-to strength in the last couple of years, and he is now a two-time winner on Tour, something that always helps a player’s mentality.
At 25/1, as mentioned he is shorter than I had first hoped, but I simply could not leave him out, as I do believe he has a very strong chance of winning, and he can, don’t forget still walk away with the Race To Dubai title.
Paul Casey 28/1 (StanJames) 2pts e/w: With 12 European Tour wins to his name, Paul Casey has proved in the past that he is more than capable of getting a victory, in good events too.
At one point, back in 2009, Paul Casey was ranked No.3 in the world but, like many others he suffered a mixture of injuries and a slump in form, and went without a win between Feb 2011- May 2013, in what seemed to be a never ending drought. Of course many players go many a year without a win, but it just didn’t seem possible for such a talented player, but for much of 2012 he didn’t look like the Paul Casey we all knew.
Now though, much like Henrik Stenson, he’s started to show signs of getting back to his best, and although ultimately Stenson’s achievements are much bigger this season, it’s nice to have two players of their calibre back in form.
Since winning the Irish Open back in June, Casey’s form has been up and down, but the good weeks have been there. In the first event of the Final Series, the BMW Masters, Casey finished T8, followed by a 20th place finish in the WGC-HSBC event. Then last week, Casey again played well, but only managed a T21 place because of his 2nd round 73. This was disappointing after opening with a 66, but he went on to finish off well, and show that he is ready to continue to comeback at the very top.
At the Earth Course, Casey has made two appearances, finishing T16 in 2011 and T6 in 2010, so he appears to be comfortable with the layout, and Driving Distance is not an issue for him.
Again, like Donaldson I was struggling to decide if I could include Casey at his price, but considering 2 of his 12 European Tour wins have come in the neighbouring Abu Dhabi, he is obviously a fan of the middle-eastern area, and he’s definitely showing positive signs most weeks.
Thongchai Jaidee 66/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Thongchai Jaidee has, once again had a very solid season on the European Tour this year, and the only thing missing is a win, so maybe he’ll get that here.
A 5-time winner on the European Tour, Jaidee has certainly shown what he’s made of, and this year once again he’s shown just how talented of a player he is. As I mentioned, he hasn’t got a win this season, but he has finished 2nd on two occasions, and also 3rd, so he’s been right in the mix for another victory. His 2nd place finish came at the Volvo World Match-Play where he was beaten by Graeme McDowell, but Jaidee will be more than happy with his performance in Bulgaria, on a new course, and he has played well since. More recently, in the Final Series, Jaidee again finished well, when he came T2 at the BMW Masters, the first of the four big events. Although he has finished T46, and T29 since, I still think he’s got a good chance here in Dubai.
Looking at the course form was equally important for me when picking Jaidee this week, and this is where he really strengthened his case. He has played the Earth Course on three occasions, finishing in the top-10 twice, and T37 on his first try in 2009. A T9 and a T7 finish since prove that he has worked out the course, and considering the way he’s played this season, you wouldn’t rule out him improving on that once again this time around.
He is very capable of shooting low, as he’s proved with 3 of is 5 wins finishing in double-digit under par scores, and once he gets on a run, he is a player that can make consecutive birdies. At 66/1 I thought he was a good price in a reduced field, and I’m hoping that one of the Asia’s finest golfing exports can get another victory, here on the European Tour.
Stephen Gallagher 100/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Stephen Gallagher of Scotland is my wildcard pick this week, and I feel he is definitely a good price in this smaller field. The quality of the field is very strong, but Gallagher is a good player in his own right and there’s a couple of things that stand out for me when looking at him this week.
First of all, Gallagher has won this year, back in February, and he got that win here in Dubai, at the Dubai Desert Classic. This to me suggests he’ll come back to the city with fond memories, and hopefully up his game. He has some great finishes this year, since his win, including his T8 in the Alstom Open De France, T2 at the Johnnie Walker Championship, T9 at the Omega European Masters and also an impressive T3 at the Portugal Masters. The Portugal Masters was the last event before the Final Series started, and in the first two events, he didn’t play that well, however last week he shot three rounds in the 60s en-route to a T25 finish.
He has played the Earth Course twice, finishing a disappointing 51st in 2010, but then improving massively last year when he finished T16, so maybe he’ll much more comfortable with the course this time around. He’s no slouch off the tee, and with some of the good weeks he’s had, he should be in a good mindset returning to the city he won in previously this season.
At 100/1 I thought he was worth a bet, even if you just based it on him getting a win in Dubai early in the year. For me he’s shown enough to warrant a bit more faith than that, with some really good finishes and I’m more than happy to get him involved here at the DP World Tour Championship.
Total Points Staked this week: 12
Profit/Loss for 2013: +73.75
Well that’s that. There’s my final picks for the 2013 European Tour season, I’m really happy with my selections and I’m looking forward to it starting on Thursday morning. We had a good result last week, which could of been a whole lot better, as 300/1 Raphael Jacquelin finished in a tie for 5th, given us a bit of profit overall on the week. It’s been a great season, where we’ve had four winners from the European Tour, at prices between 20-1-80-1. Hopefully we can end it in similar style, with one of the above players winning this week. Thanks for reading, don’t forget to get in touch via Twitter @TJacobsGolf.