Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett are each hoping to sign off their impressive personal 2019 campaigns in style at the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai – the eighth Rolex Series event of the year.
World Number Two McIlroy has won four times globally during the calendar year, including on his most recent start in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China three weeks ago, while defending champion Willett backed up his win 12 months ago with a second Rolex Series title in the BMW PGA Championship in September.
“It’s always nice to come back and defend anywhere in the world,” said Willett. “For it to be the final event of the year in Dubai, obviously with the new format, 50 guys here and a really strong field again it’s good fun.
“Last year, we weren’t sure if we were going to win again with all the injuries, and it was nice to come back and do it on such a big stage against such a great field.
“Obviously coming down the stretch with Patrick Reed and Jon Rahm posting scores, just to prove to myself that when I get in contention, I’m pretty good at closing out golf tournaments. Obviously after everything that happened, it was, a pretty special moment, especially with all the family here and friends.
“Any win in your career is a pretty special moment, but yeah, the bigger the event and the bigger the emotion, always makes it feel even better.”
Like Willett, McIlroy has previous success at Jumeriah Golf Estates, having claimed the title in 2012 and 2015 with a further five top ten finishes in his nine appearances.
“I’ve been coming back here for ten years now. I remember my first year here, battling Lee Westwood to the finish to win the Race to Dubai. It’s been a great ten years. The golf course has been getting better and better and the event itself, the clubhouse and how mature everything is. It is a much bigger event than it was back then.
“If you have length, it can be advantage, but we have the top 50 guys here and they know what it takes to play well.
“It’s going to be a fun week for get out there with Niall on the bag and hopefully I can play well the first few days and you know, we’ll get into the heat of battle hopefully on the weekend and that will be something that will be fun for both of us.
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“I’ll maybe take on a little bit more responsibility than I usually do and jot stuff down. It feels a little bit like when Harry first came on the bag a couple years ago, right. I took on a little more responsibility writing stuff in my yardage book and pacing stuff out. I actually quite enjoy that part, as well.
“You know what, it will be fun. Obviously Niall and I go back a long way, so yeah, for me at this point it’s just about trying to stay as relaxed and as loose as possible out there and he can definitely do that for me.”
McIlroy goes into the week in sixth place on the Race to Dubai, 2,039.1 points behind Race to Dubai leader Bernd Wiesberger. With 2,000 points going to the winner of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, the four-time Major Champion is unable to add to his three Race to Dubai titles, but he is targeting a 15th European Tour title and with it the US$3 million winner’s cheque – the richest first prize in tournament golf.
That is also the aim for Willett, who won by two shots from Matt Wallace and Patrick Reed last year, as he seeks to become the first player since Henrik Stenson in 2013/14 to defend the DP World Tour Championship title.