This week's DP World Tour Championship marks the end of the season on the DP World Tour and the conclusion of a very tumultuous year for that league. Amid an increased strategic alliance with the PGA Tour and the LIV Golf drama that has coursed up and down the tour, the focus has hardly been on the golf.
Still, there's an opportunity for the focus to shift back to the course entirely with Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton teeing it up at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai for a $10 million DP World Tour Championship purse and, additionally, the top spot on Europe's season-long race (tantamount to the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup).
Let's take a look at a few things to know about this week's finale in Dubai and set the stage for what could happen.
1. Down to seven
Though anyone in the field can win the DP World Tour Championship, the list of golfers who can win the season-long points race is down to seven. Despite playing just nine DP World Tour events this season, McIlroy leads the race narrowly over New Zealander Ryan Fox, who has played 23 events. Those two are the most in control of their own destiny in Dubai. Here are the scenarios:
- Rory McIlroy: If he wins this week or finishes ahead of the other six, he wins the season-long race
- Ryan Fox: Has to win or finish ahead of McIlroy (and everyone else) by a wide enough margin
- Matt Fitzpatrick: Has to finish in top two and have McIlroy finish worse than seventh and Fox not win
- Tommy Fleetwood: Has to win and have McIlroy finish worse than third and Fox worse than second
- Viktor Hovland: Has to win and have McIlroy finish worse than fourth and Fox worse than third
- Shane Lowry: Has to win and have McIlroy to finish worse than seventh, Fox worse than fifth and Fitzpatrick worse than second
- Adrian Meronk: Has to win and have McIlroy to finish worse than 16th, Fox worse than eighth and Fitzpatrick worse than second
The scenarios are complex for everyone other than McIlroy and Fox, and given how well McIlroy plays on this golf course (see below), he truly controls his own destiny in ways the other six do not.
2. No defending champion
Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa will not defend his title from last year. Morikawa said he has "some upcoming personal commitments", and therefore won't attempt to become the first since Henrik Stenson in 2013-14 to go back to back at the season-ending tournament.
3. Rory's double
McIlroy has won three FedEx Cups and three season-long races on the European side, but he's never held both at the same time. Considering the level at which he's playing -- 3.0 strokes gained per round since June 1, which is laugh-out-loud good -- and with the FedEx Cup currently under his belt, this is probably his best opportunity to do something that has never been accomplished. In his last eight events worldwide, McIlroy has more wins (2) than finishes outside the top eight (1).
4. Matt Fitzpatrick's magical ending
I'm not sure Fitzpatrick has gotten the credit he deserves for his 2022. He has 11 top 10s across all tours and has improved his strokes gained number for the 11th (!!) consecutive year. His U.S. Open title was a highlight, but it does feel as if he's been a little lost in the shuffle since then. This is an opportunity to, like Morikawa a year ago, punctuate a fantastic season that included a major win with the best topper of all on the DP World Tour. Fitzpatrick has won two of the last six DP World Tour Championships (Rahm has two others), and to make it three of seven in this field would be extraordinary.
5. LIV Golf presence
There are LIV players in the field -- Richard Bland and Adrian Otaegui will both tee it up -- but none of them have a chance to win, which is not a scenario DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley wants on his hands. What's perhaps more interesting is that the No. 7 player in the points race, Thomas Pieters, is not teeing it up in Dubai. He announced in October that he was going to miss time because he and his wife were expecting their second child, so it's likely that's why he won't be here. However, his name has recently been in the LIV rumor mill, which as we've seen with LIV, could be nothing at all but could end up being something. Only time will tell, though Pieters' presence at the finale will certainly be missed after the great season he's put together.