Reigning champion is in strong form and is the man to beat this week in the UAE
Henrik Stenson returns to the scene of one of his greatest triumphs this week and there is little reason to suggest that he cannot repeat the victory he produced last year at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
The Swede has had a very profitable, but somewhat frustrating season on the European tour so far; the Ryder Cup aside he is yet to get his hands on a trophy in 2014. However, top five finishes at the US Open, PGA Championship, BMW International Open and Volvo World Match Play Championship have seen Stenson finish second in the Race to Dubai rankings, and
maintain his world ranking of fourth.
His most recent top five finish came just last weekend when he produced a stunning final round to come third at the Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya. After three consecutive rounds of 70, the 38-year-old burst into life, shooting a 64 on Sunday and storming up the leaderboard to take third place.
His consistently strong performances this year are illustrated by his stroke average of just 69.9 in European Tour events. This leaves him behind only world number one Rory McIlroy and, bizarrely, Thailand’s Prom Meesawat. (Although the former has only played six events.) Stenson is also highly rated in driving accuracy and driving distance (13th in each), a combination that is crucial on the low-scoring Earth Course.
Last year Stenson was rarely removed from the top of the leaderboard in Dubai as he finished 25-under par over four sublime rounds. His second and fourth rounds were completed in just 64 shots and if he can reach that level again this week then he should stroll to the title.
His 2013 triumph was no fluke as he had shown what he could do on the Earth Course in 2012. He finished T7 with the worst of his four rounds amounting to a 69. That means he has produced eight consecutive rounds of under 70 on this course.
The only man ahead of Stenson in the betting is McIlroy, but he has hardly enjoyed the best preparation for this tournament. He has not picked up a club in anger for a month due to his ongoing legal shenanigans which has to put him at a disadvantage heading to Dubai. Given his monumental talent, it would be no great surprise if he got his hands on the trophy for a second time, but he is not worth backing at the short price of 5/1 this week.
Stenson looks much the more appealing option given his form and impressive record on this course. He comes in at 8/1 and that is the kind of value that should not be turned down.