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    Race to Dubai Players to Watch

    They are all among the leaders in the Race to Dubai, and a victory in this tournament could put one of them on top.The European Tour winds down for the year this week at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai with a close battle over who will win the Race to Dubai and be crowned the No. 1 golfer in Europe.After 42 tournaments in 23 countries, the winner walks away with a portion of the record $9 million in prize money.Here are five players to watch.Will ZalatorisHe is one of this year’s breakout stars. Zalatoris, 25, of the United States, tied for sixth at the United States Open, eighth at the PGA Championship and won the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year. Most notably, Zalatoris crashed onto golf’s center stage when he took second at the Masters, losing to Hideki Matsuyama of Japan by one stroke“This past year has been pretty crazy,” Zalatoris said in an interview. “But it’s all good stuff. It’s been a lot of fun. Augusta is the one I’m most proud of, though. Just knowing that I can put myself in that position and be in contention and handle it. It’s nice to know that you can do stuff like that. It’s motivating.”Zalatoris, who is No. 11 in the Race to Dubai, has been working on distance control, but said there is no secret to his success. “The good is really good,” he said. “We just need to make the bad a little bit better.”Matt Fitzpatrick is the defending champion and comes to Dubai after winning the Andalucia Masters in Spain. He is sixth in the Race to Dubai rankings.Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesMatt FitzpatrickFitzpatrick, 27, of England is the defending champion and comes to Dubai fresh off a win at the Andalucia Masters in Spain, making for a total of seven wins on the European Tour.“I really think my game is trending in the right direction,” he told reporters recently. “Playing well in the next few weeks, I’ll hopefully have some good results.”Fitzpatrick, No. 6 in the Race to Dubai, said it was important to manage the amount of pressure he puts on himself and to be patient.“I think for me it’s just about trying to have consistency throughout the whole four aspects of my game,” he said. “This year it’s been driving and putting, but my approach play’s been off, so hopefully I’ll get that to a better level and keep going with that.”Collin Morikawa is leading the Race to Dubai. He has won two majors on the PGA Tour.Atsushi Tomura/Getty ImagesCollin MorikawaMorikawa, 24, of the United States, made his Dubai debut last year and is leading the Race to Dubai this year.“I’ve put myself in a pretty strong position to win,” he said in a phone interview. “Now, I’m trying to get prepped, just like any other event. I’m coming out trying to win. It’s going to be a great field of players. I’ve seen this course, and I know what to expect.”Morikawa is working on “a few small things,” he said. “Some things are physical, and some things are mental. It’s just about getting a little sharper. It’s the end of the season, and sometimes you get a little too relaxed. So it’s just about staying sharp when you’re out there.”Morikawa, who has won two majors and five tournaments on the PGA Tour, is trying to pare his approach to the game.“You try to think back to when you played well and try to put yourself in that situation and realize what you did. You try to be consistent and keep a routine. It’s about being simple and thinking simple things when you’re out on the golf course. Sometimes that’s not so easy. I can’t think about protecting my lead. I just need to go out and hit the target.”Richard Bland has been on a hot streak recently that puts him eighth in the Race to Dubai.Sean M. Haffey/Getty ImagesRichard BlandBland, of England, made headlines in May when he took his first European Tour win at the British Masters at 48 years old.After grinding his way through 478 tournaments over more than two decades, Bland finally won. He’s been on a hot streak ever since, with six top-10 finishes that place him at No. 8 in the Race to Dubai.What did Bland change in his game to achieve the recent results?“I haven’t done anything different,” he said in a phone interview. “I think it was just my time. It’s hard to explain why a win didn’t happen earlier. I just carried on playing well since the win. I haven’t changed the way I practice. I’m not trying to do anything different. Everything just clicked into place, and then you get the confidence of winning. It just snowballed from there.”Comfort, consistency and a clear head work for Bland. “I’m not a big tinkerer, or changer of things,” he said. “If it ain’t broke, then don’t try and fix it. If your game is in good shape, then just go play. I don’t want too many thoughts going around in my head.”This season Min Woo Lee of Australia has had his first two wins on the tour, and he is No. 5 on the Race to Dubai.Dan Peled/EPA, via ShutterstockMin Woo LeeLee, 23 of Australia, is the latest to crack the Race to Dubai top 10 after three recent performances on the European Tour. He tied for second at the Andalucia Masters, tied for eighth at the Portugal Masters and tied for fourth last week at the AVIV Dubai Championship. The results place him at No. 5 on the Race to Dubai.“I was going to take this week off, but I thought my form was pretty solid and it would be another challenge in front of me and I could overcome it,” Lee said in a statement. “It is tough, I haven’t been home in six months, but I’m looking forward to going home and relaxing.”Earlier this season, Lee notched his first two wins on the tour, narrowly edging out Fitzpatrick at the Scottish Open and finishing two shots ahead of Ryan Fox of New Zealand at the ISPS Handa Vic Open. More

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    An American May Finally Win the Race to Dubai

    It’s never happened before, and the sport is wondering what it means if a golfer from the United States wins the European championship.In the 50-year history of the European Tour, something could happen on Sunday at the final event of the season, the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, that has never happened: An American could win the Race to Dubai competition.Collin Morikawa, who won the British Open this year, is in first place, followed by Billy Horschel, winner of the BMW PGA Championship. Both players are Americans and members of the PGA and the European Tours.This time last year, Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, was in contention. But Lee Westwood of England won the title for the third time. (The race had previously been called the Order of Merit.)Jon Rahm, the top-ranked player in the world, was lurking in third place but he announced on Sunday that he wold not play in Dubai.Still, why top Americans are surging on the European Tour and what it means is not obvious, except that professional golf is in flux.The tour was once the province of European and non-American players. Then it became a testing ground for future stars, the way Brooks Koepka of the United States played on the European Tour early in his career to test his mettle and gain membership on the PGA Tour. He went on to win four major championships.Today, the nationality of who is leading the Race to Dubai may be unimportant because next year the European Tour will not even be called the European Tour. Last week, the tour’s parent company, European Tour Group, announced its flagship tour will be known as the DP World Tour starting in 2022.Even Keith Pelley, the European Tour’s chief executive, was at a loss when asked about American dominance in the yearlong race and what it meant.“I’d have answered that question completely differently before November 2020,” he said, referring to when a strategic alliance was announced between the PGA Tour and the European Tour.“Before the PGA Tour became our partner, as opposed to a competitor, it would have meant a lot more for an American to be in contention in the Race to Dubai,” Pelley said. “We are no longer competing for top players. Collin Morikawa and Billy Horschel are great players and great ambassadors of the game, and we are grateful for them. The importance of an American winning would have been much greater in the past.”Collin Morikawa at the PGA Championship in South Carolina in May.Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesThe PGA Tour and the European Tour have historically been rivals for players and commercial dollars. But out of the Covid lockdown came a partnership.When major events — like the Masters, the United States Open, PGA Championship and the British Open — were initially canceled or postponed last year, the two tours came together to see which events could be salvaged and staged safely. While many regular-season events were lost, three of the four majors were held — albeit without fans. (The British Open was canceled.)From that cooperation, the PGA Tour took a 15 percent stake in the European Tour Group in May. They also began to coordinate their schedules so the top players would be able to play in each tour’s big events. At the same time, the players excluded from those events because of their rankings would have other events to play that would count toward the rankings on both tours.Next year, there will be three such events: the Genesis Scottish Open, the Barbasol Championship and the Barracuda Championship.“There’s no question both organizations are going to be made stronger by working together,” said Rick Anderson, chief media officer for the PGA Tour.Still, what this cooperation means for the golfers was not as easy to hash out as the scheduling, commercial licenses and big advertising dollars.This mash-up of tours in partnerships and branding comes when the golf ecosystem is increasingly intertwined, but also incredibly scrambled. There used to be clear distinctions on what the tours meant. The PGA and the European Tours were rivals through the 1990s, with each tour’s players really only crossing the Atlantic for majors like the Masters or the British Open.But starting in 1986, the European Tour started the Challenge Tour to serve as the proving ground for future European Tour players. Four years later, in 1990, the PGA Tour created the Ben Hogan Tour, now known as the Korn Ferry Tour, to serve the same purpose for the PGA Tour.At the time, the developmental tours fed into the main tours. But over the decades, players began to shuffle among them as playing privileges became harder to come by in the Tiger Woods era.“Our tours were vertically integrated,” Pelley said. “Now they’re horizontally integrated, and it’s a significant difference. What does that mean in the long run? That’s the $1 million question. I can’t emphatically give you an answer.”There is definitely opportunity for the top players. Horschel realizes he could accomplish two firsts in winning or finishing high enough at the DP World Championship, Dubai, which ends on Sunday, to claim the Race to Dubai. In addition to being the first American to win the European Tour’s season-long title, he could be just the second player to win both the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup, the PGA Tour’s equivalent.Billy Horschel won the BMW PGA Championship in September.Glyn Kirk/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesYet Horschel, 34, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where the PGA Tour is based, said he grew up watching tournaments like the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour early in the day and then being inspired to play afterward. He has a growing fan base in Europe and said he hoped to play five to seven tournaments on the European Tour each year.Facilitating this is what the alliance between the two tours and the increased sponsorship from DP World would achieve. Each tournament under the DP World Tour will have at least a $2 million prize purse, while next year’s version of the season-ending DP World Championship will have a $10 million purse, up from about $9 million this year.There will also be more cooperation so the elite players can play in each tour’s biggest events. “The thinking was how can we organize our respective schedules, so this is more planned out,” Anderson said. “If you organize these things, it’ll be better for both organizations and not be disruptive to the tours.(Neither Pelley nor Anderson would comment on Greg Norman’s new Saudi-backed golf venture, LIV Golf Investments, which aims to create a premier golf league to lure the top players.)Where the new focus on the big events is less thought out is on its impact on all the other golfers who are not ranked in the Top 50. Their path is not as clear as it once was. Younger American and European players had a system of working their way from the Korn Ferry and Challenge Tours to the PGA and European Tours. But the alliance and higher prize money from DP World could crowd them out.One nod to that is both tours are sanctioning two lesser events next year, in the Barbasol Championship and the Barracuda Championship, giving playing opportunities to professionals who did not qualify for the Scottish or the British Opens that are held the same weeks.“Today the different ways you make it to the PGA Tour are varied, and there isn’t a clear path to get there,” Anderson said. “We want to identify clear lanes for the players who ask, how do I progress in our sport and create options?”For now, though, all eyes are on golf’s elite players to see who will win this year’s Race to Dubai.“Collin and I have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done before,” Horschel said. “It’s going to be a tight race. You have a lot of great players who have the chance to win the Race to Dubai.” More

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    The Two Worlds of Billy Horschel

    He has won the BMW PGA Championship and is now close to winning the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.Billy Horschel of the United States, ranked 20th in the world golf rankings, enters the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai this week in second place in the Race to Dubai, the season-long points race on the European Tour. To win it all, he will have to pass fellow American Collin Morikawa, ranked second in the world and leading the Race to Dubai.If Horschel wins, he would enter elite company in winning the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup, the race’s equivalent on the PGA Tour. Henrik Stenson of Sweden is the only one to win both, capturing the FedEx Cup in 2013 and the Race to Dubai in 2013 and 2016.Horschel is a member of the PGA and the European Tours. This year he has played four events in Europe: the Scottish Open, the British Open, the BMW PGA Championship, which he won the same week he found out he would not play in the Ryder Cup — and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.Horschel said he embraced his dual tour status, and in return he has been embraced by European fans.The following interview has been edited and condensed.How does winning the BMW PGA Championship rank in your year?It was a top highlight. I played it in 2019, and I fell in love with the event. I watched it as a kid. It was the first week we were out of school. I’d watch it and go play afterward. To win there — the support I got was unbelievable. It made me feel like I was an English golfer with so many people rooting me on to victory. Being the flagship event on the European Tour, it has that same level of importance as the Players Championship on the PGA Tour. Being able to say I’ve won there is important. That event can rival any event on the PGA Tour. It’s comparable to the majors.Horschel playing last month in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in St. Andrews, Scotland.Mark Runnacles/Getty ImagesHow did you feel about the Ryder Cup?I’m ecstatic the U.S. Team won. Many times we had a strong team on paper, but these guys produced, and I knew they would. The majority were really close knit, but they also knew how to get away and have fun off the golf course. I wanted to make the team, but I knew I had a very low percentage chance of making it. I was just more upset thinking I should have gotten a call. At the end of the day, it was my little perceived knock, but it worked out in the end.How do you think about splitting your time on the PGA and European Tours?The European Tour’s gotten so much tougher. After winning the BMW PGA, I’ve gotten so much support traveling overseas that I’d like to get over more. I’m trying to give myself enough events on the PGA Tour to give myself an opportunity to win the FedEx Cup again. But I’m also trying to support the European Tour and how it’s trying to grow. Over the next five to 10 years, I’m going to try to get over there at least five times, though seven would be ideal.You are in second place in the Race to Dubai. What are you thinking going into the DP World Tour?It’s a pretty unique situation. No American has won the Race to Dubai. I think Collin and I have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done before. It’s going to be an unbelievable week. It’s going to be a tight race. You have a lot of great players who have the chance to win the Race to Dubai. To add your name to that prestigious list is something you can’t get away from. I’ve already been thinking about it since I won the BMW PGA.What do season-long contests like the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup mean to players?I’m always trying to win the tournament. I hardly ever know where I stand in points. I’m always trying to get better through the year. But in a couple of events, you’re coming down 18 and you don’t have a chance to win, and you say to yourself, “Let’s not do anything stupid and take away a top-five finish.” At the end of the year, one shot can be a massive difference. More

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    An American First on the European Tour

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyAn American First on the European TourThe controversial golfer Patrick Reed is leading the race to become the No. 1 player, which will be settled in Dubai.Patrick Reed in September at the United States Open, where he finished tied for 13th.Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York TimesDec. 9, 2020, 5:02 a.m. ETLove him or hate him, Patrick Reed is poised to become the first American to be Europe’s top golfer.The 30-year-old Texan, who shot to fame at the 2016 Ryder Cup as “Captain America,” exciting fans with his aggressive play and on-course antics, holds the lead in the Race to Dubai rankings that come to a close next week at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, at Jumeirah Golf Estates from Wednesday through Sunday.While Reed has been a polarizing figure in American golf, fans in Europe love him. He’s found a warm embrace on the European Tour, which made him an honorary lifetime member after his 2018 Masters win. He also enjoys the exchanges with European fans, who have largely moved on from his 2014 Ryder Cup performance where he goaded and shushed spectators. Those same fans now applaud his fiery competitive edge.Besides, taking his game worldwide was always in his plans, he said, and that means playing the European Tour. As he said in October at the BMW PGA Championship in England: “I feel like the more support we can get, especially from guys from the States, the better. That’s one reason why I always come over and play, is because I know how important it is for our games to travel.”He said last week that he felt a special connection with European fans.“I think it started in 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland,” he said, referring to the Ryder Cup. “For the first time, I realized that they understood my humor, and the competitor I am.”He said the closing ceremony was very special to him.“They announced Tom Watson, and I looked at the thousands and thousands of European fans, waves and waves of people roaring on their feet for Tom Watson, our American captain, in defeat,” Reed said. “And it really moved me. I had never seen anything like that. They loved him no matter what country he came from. I felt like, I want to be like him.”Patrick Reed, center, at the 2014 Ryder Cup, talking with Tom Watson, left, the captain for the United States.Credit…Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America, via Getty ImagesFans in Europe appreciate that, by playing in the tour, he helps build better golf there. But things are different in the United States, where Reed has earned critics on and off the course, starting in 2014 when he boldly proclaimed he was one of the top five players in the world. It wasn’t true; he was No. 20 in the rankings at the time. Yet he has since been forever linked to that brash claim.Most recently he was criticized last December for seemingly improving his lie in a waste bunker when his club brushed away sand behind his ball at the 11th hole at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. While Reed said that it was unintentional and that he did not notice that his club had moved any sand, he was penalized two shots.He said afterward that after seeing the video, he accepted the penalty, “but it wasn’t because of any intent.”“I thought I was far enough away,” he said. “I think with a different camera angle, they would have realized that. It was not improving the lie because it was far enough away from the golf ball.”Taunts of “cheater” soon followed him to tournaments from Hawaii to California. In February, his fellow American Brooks Koepka, a 2018 Ryder Cup teammate, called him out on it.Patrick Reed was penalized two shots last year at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas for improving his lie in a bunker.Credit…Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images“I don’t know what he was doing — building sand castles in the sand — but, you know, you know where your club is,” Koepka said in an interview with SiriusXM. “I mean, I took three months off, and I can promise you I know if I touch sand. If you look at the video, obviously he grazes the sand twice and then he still chops down on it.” Cameron Smith of Australia also called Reed a cheat.Reed has become a master at tuning out the noise.“The biggest thing for me is any time you go to the golf course, pop in my headphones, get to work and just really get in tune with every golf shot I hit because at the end of the day you can’t listen to what other people are saying,” Reed said at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February.To the end, for Reed to win the Race to Dubai and make European Tour history, he has to fend off Tommy Fleetwood, Collin Morikawa, and Lee Westwood, who are the next three in points. Fleetwood won the Race to Dubai in 2017 and has finished second and third in the rankings in the past two years.Morikawa is in the hunt to win without having played one game in Europe this year. As an affiliate member of the tour, which allows players to pay a fee for tour status, points may be earned at majors and other events and applied to the Race to Dubai.Westwood is hoping to win the Race to Dubai for the third time. “I’ve had some success in Dubai over the years,” he said. “It’s a big honor for any player. I’ve done it twice before, so it’s great to have another chance again this year.”Ahead in points, Reed hopes this will be his year.“I came close in 2018,” he said. “So you bet I will do my best to earn that No. 1 spot.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More