Matt Fitzpatrick needs to win the season-ending DP World Championship on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates this week and hope results go his way to lay claim to one of the more prestigious titles in the game.
He need only go back to last year for fond memories to inspire him to victory, the 27-year-old won the DP World Championship for a second time to finish runner-up to Lee Westwood, who topped the money list for a third time in three decades.
Open champion Collin Morikawa is the pacesetter, and victory for him or second-placed Billy Horschel would guarantee either American the title, while Tyrrell Hatton, Min Woo Lee, and Paul Casey find themselves in the same shoes as Fitzpatrick, needing a win and results to go their way.
Fortunately for Fitzpatrick, he feels he could play the course “blindfolded”, but the Sheffield professional will also need Morikawa to finish worse than ninth and Horschel outside the top five.
“I’m higher up than I was last year and I won and finished second, so I kind of just presumed if I did the same again I’ve got a good chance of winning,” said Fitzpatrick, who is in such a handsome position because he won the Andalucia Masters just a few weeks after failing to score a point on his second appearance for the European Ryder Cup team.
“I have nice memories from 2016, and then obviously last year as well. You know the course like the back of your hand and I’m thinking I could probably play it blindfolded anyway.
“Statistically speaking why it suits me is because there’s a few more long irons, and apparently on paper I’m a bit better with my long irons than my mid irons and short irons.
“In terms of last year’s performance, I just remember I was struggling coming into it. I wasn’t playing great. And me and Mike (Walker – coach) had a great session or two the weekend before and then leading into it. And then Monday, Tuesday was really good. I felt like I was swinging it really well, all of a sudden.
“And I had a great feeling, and I knew what the club was doing pretty much every time. And it just made it so much easier when you’re out there when you feel so comfortable.
“Winning Valderrama for me it felt like a bit of a justification for how well I played the Ryder Cup, but obviously I had nothing to show for it. I felt like it was coming, and it did in the end, which was great, at Valderrama.”
Another player looking for a third win at the tournament but who can’t win the Order of Merit, is Rory McIlroy, who also put his Ryder Cup disappointment behind him with a second victory of the year on the PGA Tour.
McIlroy called this year one of ‘exploration and learning’ as he hired Yorkshire coach Pete Cowen before the Masters, only to move away from him again last month. McIlroy’s opinion was also sought on the announcement last week that the European Tour will be known from next year as the DP World Tour, boasting total prize money of more than 200m US dollars (£147m) for the first time.
“I just think it’s a great thing for this Tour that the members that play here full-time have a place to play long into the future,” said McIlroy. “I’m just going to play the same schedule I’ve basically played for the last five years.”
Marcus Armitage (Howley Hall) who won the Porsche European Open in June, and Sheffield’s Danny Willett – winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links and champion around the Earth Course in 2018 – are also in the field from Thursday.