Matt Fitzpatrick, Dan Bradbury and Dan Brown fly Yorkshire flag at DP World Tour finale in Dubai
Of the 14 stagings of the European circuit’s high-profile and lucrative finale in the desert, golfers representing the White Rose have triumphed three times.
Former US Open winner Matt Fitzpatrick is a two-time champion, in 2016 when he was still a relative greenhorn, and again in 2020 when he was just beginning to assert himself as one of the best players in the world.
And former Masters champion Danny Willett was a welcome winner of the season finale back in 2018 - welcome because it has been more than two and half years since that win at Augusta which, largely due to injuries, did not prove to be the breakthrough moment for the Rotherham Golf Club member many had predicted.
Willett sits it out this year after more problems with his shoulder led to him undergoing surgery in September.
Fitzpatrick, though, is back at the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, fresh from his second win of the year at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October, a week after he helped Europe reclaim the Ryder Cup in Rome.
As well as his two wins, the 29-year-old Hallamshire Golf Club star has strong pedigree around the Earth Course, registering six top-10 finishes in eight starts and with the length off the tee he added to his game prior to his US Open win at Brookline last summer, he is always a good bet for another victory.
The other two Yorkshiremen are making their debuts, and at the end of their rookie seasons, merely making it to Dubai is a significant achievement.
Wakefield’s Dan Bradbury won the opening tournament of the year 51 weeks ago in Johannesburg and had his next best result just last week across South Africa in Sun City, when he finished fifth behind Max Homa in the Nedbank Challenge. Such was the prestige of that event, the 24-year-old actually earned more for finishing fifth than he did for winning the Joburg Open, a title he defends next week.
Bradbury comes into the final week 37th on the points list, knowing a win would almost certainly shoot him up high enough to finish as one of the top 10 players in the rankings not already exempt who would earn a ticket to the PGA Tour in America for next season.
Last man in the elite 50-player field is Dan Brown of Romanby Golf Club in Northallerton, who like Bradbury, headlined his rookie campaign with a win when triumphing at the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland in August.
A portent for another Yorkshire victor this week is that the defending champion is Masters winner and European Ryder Cup hero Jon Rahm, who on his previous two wins at the event in 2017 and 2019 was succeeded by White Rose players in Willett and Fitzpatrick.
On this occasion, Rahm admits he only has himself to blame for not being able to deny Rory McIlroy a fifth Race to Dubai title.
McIlroy was assured of topping the money list when Adrian Meronk and Ryan Fox failed to earn enough points in last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge to get within 2,000 points of the world No 2.
Only 2,000 points are on offer for the winner of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship and McIlroy was already 2,082.53 ahead of nearest rival Rahm, who chose not to compete in Sun City.
Rahm has previously contested just two regular DP World Tour events in 2023, the Ryder Cup counts as a third and this week’s title defence in Dubai therefore fulfils the minimum requirements for DP World Tour membership.
Rahm admitted it was disappointing for fans that the Race to Dubai had already been settled, but admitted: “At the same time, though, it’s mainly my fault.
“He (McIlroy) played great golf. I could have tried to go to Nedbank and get a few more points to give myself a chance this week. He did what he needed to do and I didn’t.”
Despite not having the chance to win the Race to Dubai for a second time, Rahm still prefers the DP World Tour’s format to that of the PGA Tour, which employs a controversial handicap system in the FedEx Cup.
The player who earns the most points throughout the year begins the season-ending Tour Championship on 10 under par, the second-highest on eight under and so on, on a sliding scale down to the players in 26th to 30th who start on level par.
“You don’t see whoever had a better record in the Champions League finals start with a 1-0 goal advantage," said Rahm.
Rahm has a remarkable record in the DP World Tour Championship, as well as his three wins, worst finish in four appearances being a tie for fourth in 2018. “It’s something I look forward to and to me it’s a great way to end the year,” said Rahm.