Jon Rahm hopes the longest break of his career will not ruin his chances of winning the Race to Dubai for the first time.
Rahm has not played since winning his second event of the season in the Spanish Open at the start of October, but can still become just the second Spanish player after Seve Ballesteros to finish top of the European Tour money list.
Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger is in pole position and has a 723-point lead over 2017 winner Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Sunday, with Rahm another 181 points adrift.
Open champion Shane Lowry and Matt Fitzpatrick can also end the year as European number one with strong performances and other results going their way.
Rahm, who will win the Race to Dubai if he triumphs in the DP World Tour Championship for the second time in three years and Wiesberger finishes lower than solo second, said: “It’s nice to actually be here and have a chance to win the Race to Dubai if I take care of business this week, which I haven’t had before.
“I’ve come back from taking quite a bit of time off and just deciding to rest more than practise and travelling around the world.
“It’s the first time I’ve done that in a very long time so I really don’t know how it’s going to go. I’m hoping it’s going to be good. I am feeling good, feeling rested and looking forward to the week.
“After Spain I stayed home for a week. After that I think it was three more weeks in Arizona where I truly didn’t even step on a golf course.
“Basically ever since I became a good amateur in Spain, it’s almost been 10 straight years of non-stop.
“At first it was hard to let down and step away from it a little bit and then, honestly, (I did) nothing special. Just being a 20-something, enjoying time with my friends, enjoying time with (fiance) Kelley.
“We spend so much of our life making decisions just for me and for my golf game that it was nice just to tell her for a month straight, ‘What do you want to do?’ instead of what do I need to do.”
This time last year Wiesberger was only in Dubai to practise ahead of his comeback from a wrist injury which had sidelined him for seven months.
The 34-year-old missed the cut in five of his first seven events after returning to action in the Mauritius Open at the end of November but has since won three times on the European Tour, including two lucrative Rolex Series events, and was joint third in Sun City on Sunday.
“We haven’t had an Austrian winner of the Race to Dubai or the overall ranking at any point,” Wiesberger said. “Personally it would be obviously a huge achievement for me.
How does it feel to win the Race to Dubai?— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 19, 2019
We asked some past champions 🎤 #DPWTC #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/ihLKfVGIPm
“Something that growing up watching European Tour golf and watching legends like Seve, (Jose Maria) Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie – who won so many times in a row at the time when I started getting into golf – something that looked a long distance away but is obviously much closer now.
“So we are looking forward to these next four days and are going to give it everything we have and hopefully if we count up all the points at the end of Sunday we’re still up there and it would be amazing.”