Dashing Dane Olesen can upset the market leaders
Bjerregaard and Porteous may also defy odds in Dubai
Starts 3.50am Thursday
Live on Sky Sports Golf from 8am
The Race to Dubai concludes this week with the prestigious DP World Tour Championship and three players still have a mathematical chance of topping the European money list.
RTD leader Tommy Fleetwood knows that finishing level or ahead of Justin Rose in Dubai should be enough to complete the job. Rose needs to finish fifth or better to have any chance of overtaking Fleetwood, while Sergio Garcia must lift the Tour Championship trophy and hope his English rivals both flop.
The RTD permutations may distract the trio chasing the main honour. The extra spotlight and pressure is unhelpful at the end of a long season when many are running out of gas. Fleetwood, in particular, looked in need of a rest when murmuring his way through a post-round interview at the Nedbank Challenge on Sunday. Rose probably felt vindicated for electing to skip the scorching temperatures of Sun City.
Read more of Steve Palmer's golf betting previews
None of the RTD contenders appeals as a Tour Championship wager. Fleetwood missed some tiny putts in South Africa, while there is no guarantee that Rose will continue to roll his rock well. Rose took advantage of a Dustin Johnson collapse in the HSBC, then won in Turkey by a shot, but a best-price 7-1 for Dubai seems an overreaction for a player who remains difficult to trust on the greens. Garcia is arguably getting too much credit for winning at Valderrama last time out – he beat a poor field on his favourite course – and 12-1 is nothing special.
It is also worth noting that the players go out in RTD order for the first round, so Fleetwood and Rose will be in the final pairing, with Garcia in the penultimate, alongside Tour Championship debutant Jon Rahm. The breeze tends to get up late in Dubai, so this quartet are likely to get the toughest day-one conditions. From round two onwards, the field goes out in leaderboard order.
Palmer's top tip
Thorbjorn Olesen 40-1
The most attractive price by far this week is alongside the man who lies 22nd in the RTD standings. Thorbjorn Olesen is enjoying the most consistently solid campaign of his career and he can put the icing on the cake of a lucrative season by winning the Tour Championship.
Olesen used to be a player who would miss lots of cuts before suddenly claiming a trophy. The Dane has an excellent record of converting victory opportunities. As a maturing European Tour performer, who turns 28 next month, the modern Olesen has much more polish to his game. He is more able to grind a good score when not at his absolute best.
Olesen has been impressive from the end of April onwards, posting five top-tens, including at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August. He was fifth in the Turkish Airlines Open at the start of this month, going ten under par over the weekend, then 12th in the Nedbank on Sunday after a final-round 67. This proven champion appears to be peaking at the perfect time for a visit to one of his favourite cities.
Aside from the Made In Denmark and the Majors, the two Dubai events are Olesen's most treasured. He adores Dubai and has a fantastic record in the region. He has a second and an eighth to his name in the Abu Dhabi Championship, a second and a third in the Qatar Masters, and a third, a fifth and an eighth in the Dubai Desert Classic. He has been competing in these tournaments only since 2011 and a hand injury ruined his Desert Swing in 2015.
At the Earth Course, Olesen has form figures of 19-21-17-12-17-19. Six years of quality golf in elite company. He has never arrived at the Tour Championship in better form than he has this week, and the field has been weakened by the absence of perennial Dubai dangermen Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson.
Olesen has won four times on the European Tour – and in each of the previous three years – and a first individual triumph of 2017 seems entirely possible this week. He won the GolfSixes pairs event alongside Lucas Bjerregaard in May.
Lucas Bjerregaard 150-1
A Danish one-two is feasible in Dubai as 26-year-old Lucas Bjerregaard appears capable of becoming a member of the European Tour elite. He won his maiden title at the Portugal Masters in September and this sweet-swinger looks good enough to claim higher honours.
Bjerregaard has played decent golf since his breakthrough, carding four 67s for eighth place at the British Masters, and 23 of his last 25 rounds have been 72 or better. He possesses the power and long-game class to tame the Earth Course.
Bjerregaard has had only three years of experience on the Desert Swing but can be expected to make a serious impression soon. The end of his final Challenge Tour campaign in 2013 indicated he could become a desert rat – he finished runner-up in the Oman Classic before outscoring everyone in the field over the weekend of the Challenge Tour Grand Final in Dubai.
A share of 11th spot in the Qatar Masters in January is encouraging and his only previous Earth Course start yielded four under-par rounds for 31st place in 2015.
Haydn Porteous 125-1
Another big-priced runner who can threaten the places in this small field is Haydn Porteous, an improving 23-year-old. Porteous has already won twice on the European Tour, most recently the Czech Masters in September, and spurts of brilliance in his last three tournaments suggest this South African powerhouse can make waves on his Earth Course debut.
Porteous opened with a 66 in the HSBC, before a 64 in Turkey, then a third-round 67 helped him to 12th spot in the Nedbank last week. His first appearance in Dubai resulted in eighth place in the Desert Classic last year, so it is worth chancing that this explosive talent takes an instant shine to a similar venue over the next four days.
Others to note
The Belgian bomber was the only other player who came close to selection. A tie for 11th in Turkey last time out was something to build on and this class act is well suited to the Earth Course.
The American would be worth considering if full fitness could be guaranteed, but he withdrew from the Nedbank with illness after a two-under-par opening round, so must have been in a bad way.
The defending champion showed 12 months ago that he is good enough to win on any track, magnificently overcoming his length handicap. It is impossible to rule out a repeat.
The dual Major champion has started to hit his ball with authority again in recent weeks and is a proven desert rat. The German is winless since 2014, though, and lacks short-game confidence.
The Nedbank hero invested a lot emotionally over the weekend, battling his way back into the tournament and edging home by a shot in brutal conditions. May be lacking energy in Dubai.
The Frenchman struck his ball superbly throughout the Nedbank, building on an excellent weekend in Turkey, and he boasts Earth Course form of 36-3-2-13-4.
3pts each-way 40-1 general
0.5pt each-way 150-1 Betfred
0.5pt each-way 125-1 general
Course Earth Course, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Prize money €6.87m (€1.217m to the winner)
Length 7,706 yards
Course records – 72 holes 263 Henrik Stenson (2013) 18 holes 62 Justin Rose (2012)
Course winners taking part Lee Westwood, Robert Karlsson, Alvaro Quiros, Matthew Fitzpatrick
When to bet By 3.50am Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 8am Thursday
Time difference Dubai is four hours ahead of the UK and Ireland
Last week – Nedbank Challenge 1 B Grace (16-1), 2 S Jamieson (225-1), 3 V Dubuisson (45-1), 4 H Li (100-1), 5 M Kaymer (60-1)
Course overview The Greg Norman-designed Earth Course was specifically built to be the venue for the European Tour's season finale.
The Volvo Masters at Valderrama traditionally signalled the end of the European Tour campaign, but in 2009 the Race to Dubai started and the Jumeirah Golf Estates became home for the curtain-closer.
There are three events played on the Gulf Swing of the European Tour at the start of the year – in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai – then the Tour returns nine months later for the World Championship.
The greenkeepers tend to overseed the rough with ryegrass, putting more of a premium on accuracy off the tee, but the fairways are wide and there is little in the way of tree trouble.
The 102 brilliant white marble bunkers, a few of which have been put in the centre of fairways by a dastardly Shark, are the track's main defence.
The 186-yard par-three sixth hole over water has the scope for disasters, while the 499-yard par-four ninth hole is another significant challenge on the front nine.
The last four holes fall just short of a mile long in total and Norman labelled it “the most challenging mile in golf”.
The 195-yard par-three 17th has an island green, while the 620-yard par-five 18th has a stream which splits the fairway in two, so much late drama can occur.
The greens are large, undulating and quick, with plenty of run-off areas. Despite Norman's bluster, his track has been humbled by winning scores of 23, 14, 19, 23, 25, 16, 21 and 17 under par in the eight renewals to date
Story of last year Matthew Fitzpatrick took advantage of a bogey-six from Tyrrell Hatton on the final hole, the Sheffield lad making a birdie-four to edge his compatriot by one
Weather forecast Hot, sunny and calm for the vast majority of the event, with breezes peaking late in the afternoons
Type of player suited to challenge The powerful quintet of Lee Westwood, Robert Karlsson, Alvaro Quiros, Rory McIlroy (twice) and Henrik Stenson (twice) have won the seven championships at the Earth Course and this long layout with wide fairways inevitably plays into the hands of the big-hitters. Fitzpatrick last year was the exception to the rule
Key attribute Power
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