DUBAI // For UAE golf fans, the wait is finally over. The Race to Dubai shifts to the final event on the European Tour calendar, the 2012 DP World Tour Championship, which begins today at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Rory McIlroy may have wrapped up the race earlier this week, but interest in the event remains as great as ever for the players involved, with rankings, prize money and prestige at stake.
"It's always nice to be back in Dubai, I'm looking forward to this week," the Ryder Cup hero, Ian Poulter, said yesterday. "I guess I'm in some pretty good form and feeling like we can end the year on a very high note and move further up in the world rankings, which would be very pleasing."
Competition at the event, which was first contested in 2009, has been fierce since its inception and this year promises to be no different. One player in particular credits this course for his dramatic return to form over the past year.
"My confidence got a huge boost at this tournament last year there's no question," Paul Lawrie, who finished second last November, said yesterday. "To win again in Malaga [earlier in 2011] was a huge step after nine years, but I think it was the week here that really gave me the self-belief."
The field, made up of the 60 highest-ranked players on the European Tour, has thrown up some intriguing stories.
McIlroy could become the first winner of the event not to have won a competition on the European tour during the previous year, although that does not seem to be a distraction for the world No 1.
"Even though I have not won a regular Tour event, I've played well in the World Golf Championships, and obviously won a major and played well in a couple of other European tour events," he said.
At the other end of the pecking order, the Englishman Richard Finch became the 60th and last man to squeeze into the tournament earlier this week despite missing the cut at the Hong Kong Open.
Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain comes to Dubai having become, on Sunday, the oldest player to win a European Tour event, at the age of 48. The tournament will also bring a happy reunion for all 12 of Europe's victorious Ryder Cup team.
However, it will also mark the first time that a reigning champion has not been back to defend his title, Alvaro Quiros failing to make the top 60 this year.
Some happy off-the-course news was made yesterday, too. The 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell, who has endured a difficult season, announced his engagement, having proposed to his fiancee at the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
After a season of such highs and lows the eyes of local golf fans will be on the Jumeirah Golf Estates when Finch tees off at 7.52am.
The prize: just over €1 million (Dh4.7m) for the winner.
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