Steve Palmer's Race to Dubai predictions and golf betting tips
Rory McIlroy could make huge impact in Majors season and claim Dubai glory again
Steve Palmer's golf tips, best bets and player analysis for the Race to Dubai - the European Tour's season-long contest.
3pts each-way 11-2 Betfair, Paddy Power
1.5pts each-way 18-1 Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes
1pt each-way 50-1 Betfair, Betfred, Hills, Paddy Power
Erik van Rooyen
0.5pt each-way 150-1 Betfair, Paddy Power
Steve Palmer's top tip
Rory McIlroy 11-2
The Race to Dubai market has never been a more complex puzzle, with the players themselves lacking full awareness of their schedule for next year, and the cloud of Covid-19 still lingering over the European Tour.
Punters dabbling on the RTD must do so knowing that scientists and government ministers may have an impact on their bets. As things stand, travellers from the UK are banned from entering many other countries, so defending RTD champion Lee Westwood, a resident of Newcastle upon Tyne, may have to wait before he can start winning RTD points next year. Elite sportsmen have been getting exemptions to travel, but there is no guarantee of that continuing.
The Saudi International is scheduled for the first week of February, but Saudi Arabia closed its borders this week so the three-week Gulf Swing - the Abu Dhabi Championship, Dubai Desert Classic and Saudi International is not certain to go ahead as planned.
As well as the scheduling uncertainties, RTD punters must accept that the 2021 winner may not be listed in the betting. The European Tour is not in strong enough shape to have strict rules on membership with regards to superstars. When Collin Morikawa got a sniff of RTD success following his USPGA Championship victory, he suddenly became an honorary European Tour member who went to the DP World Tour Championship with a chance of winning the RTD.
Morikawa, having played just twice outside of America this year - once in Mexico and once in Dubai - finished fifth in the RTD, competing in just six counting events. It is clear that the betting community must focus on the Majors and WGCs when mulling over RTD wagers - more so than ever. The WGC in Mexico is not until the final week of February, the WGC-Match Play is in Texas in the final week of March, then Majors season starts in April.
All things considered, Rory McIlroy is worth chancing to win his fourth RTD title, having triumphed in 2012, 2014 and 2015. The 31-year-old, who became a father in the summer and is happily settled in Florida, has committed to teeing up in the Abu Dhabi Championship. If the tournament goes ahead, it will be the first of four Rolex Series events, with 8,000 RTD points up for grabs.
McIlroy, a four-time Abu Dhabi runner-up, could lay the foundation for a RTD challenge by landing an overdue ADC success.
More pertinent than Abu Dhabi is the expectation that McIlroy will have an excellent Majors campaign. Masters form figures of 8-4-10-7-5-21-5 show that he continues to threaten to land a Green Jacket, while for the 2021 US PGA he can draw upon his eight-shot victory at the same venue in the 2012 edition. Torrey Pines, where he finished fifth on his course debut last year and third in January, may also prove a happy hunting ground for the US Open, and the 2014 Open champion could easily be a factor when Claret Jug hostilities are finally resumed in July.
McIlroy has twice won the DP World Tour Championship - one of the Rolex Series quartet in 2021 - and will probably be lured back to the Earth Course in the middle of November if he has a solid chance of RTD glory.
Jon Rahm has a first baby due at the end of the summer, which could disrupt his schedule, and rumours are rife that the Spaniard is leaving TaylorMade and signing for a new equipment manufacturer. McIlroy seems a much safer bet of the market leaders.
Next best bet
Viktor Hovland 18-1
A lesser stake on Viktor Hovland is recommended. The gifted Norwegian, a two-time champion on the PGA Tour at the age of 23 and up to 14th in the world rankings, finished 11th on his BMW PGA Championship debut and third on his first start in the DP World Tour Championship. A liking for the tracks that stage those two Rolex Series events next year is useful and the Oklahoma-based starlet's ball-striking is strong enough for him to contend in Majors.
Hovland has an affection for the European Tour he grew up watching and will be keen to secure a Ryder Cup debut. He is deep in the qualifying lists and needs to pack his schedule.
Justin Rose 50-1
Erik van Rooyen 150-1
Complete a four-pronged attack with Justin Rose, who has moved back to London and has a better base from which to launch a RTD challenge, and Erik van Rooyen, who has been dismissed in the betting despite quickly showing a liking for Major competition.
Rose, having spent ten years living in Atlanta followed by a decade residing in the Bahamas, has opted to come home. The Chelsea fan turned 40 in July and wants to be closer to his brother and the rest of his family. As a former world number one and US Open champion, Rose must be respected in the RTD market at juicy prices, and he could easily re-establish himself in the elite in 2021.
Rose won the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, so will be pleased to see the US Open returning there, and he was third behind McIlroy in the 2012 US PGA at Kiawah Island.
Van Rooyen, 17th in his first Open and eighth on his USPGA debut, has played well at the Renaissance Club in Scottish Opens and that Rolex Series event should boost his RTD points yield.
Expect the 30-year-old to attend all available Gulf gigs in a bid to move from 51st in the world rankings into a spot which will guarantee Masters qualification in the middle of March. He was third in the Mexico WGC in February and will be looking forward to returning to the same course this season.
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