This week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai marks the end of the 2013-14 European Tour season, or the year of Rory McIlroy. The 25-year-old clinched the Race to Dubai crown and its $1.25 million payday without playing in last week’s Turkish Airlines Open. If that’s not the sign of a good season, we’re not sure what is.
The fourth of four events in the Race to Dubai will be held at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, UAE. The last three DP World Tour Championship winners are Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy and Alvaro Quiros. What do they have in common? They are typically among the world’s longest drivers of the golf ball. So far this season, Quiros is ranked 5th in European Tour driving distance (306.1 yards), McIlroy 6th (305.6) and Stenson 13th (300.4).
Of the top 10 finishers in last year’s DP World Tour Championship, six cracked the top 10 in driving distance at the event, with eventual champion Stenson finishing seventh. Only one top-10 finisher was outside the top 40 in driving distance.
When McIlroy won in 2012, he finished third in driving distance. Like the 2013 event, six top-10 finishers also cracked the top 10 in driving distance in 2012.
The Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates can be stretched over 7,500 yards. Combine that with generous fairways, a lack of thick rough and temperatures expected in the mid 80s, and the field’s longest hitters will be swinging away without caution. If past form holds, expect them to dominate the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
Here’s a look at a few of the longest hitters in the field in Dubai and the drivers they’ll have in the bag.
Nicolas Colsaerts—otherwise known as the “Belgian Bomber”—currently leads the European Tour in driving distance at an average of 313 yards. In his last five Euro Tour starts, Colsaerts has three top-10 finishes, including a runner-up at the Portugal Masters in October and a T4 at the ISPS Handa Wales Open in September.
The 32-year-old hasn’t won since the 2012 Volvo World Match Play, but that could change in Dubai if the rest of his game matches his brilliant ability to produce neck-breaking moonshots with the driver.
Colsaerts is currently playing a 9.5° Callaway RAZR Hawk Tour driver with a 45.25-inch Fujikura SPD VC 8.1X shaft. It’s an older model, but after launching his way to the top of the driving distance ranks—with the help of a 447-yard blast he hit during the ISPS Handa Wales Open—why mess with success?
A week after the biggest win of his career, Brooks Koepka will have a shot to add to that HUGE payday (he won $1.7 million last week) at a course that fits his game. Koepka was third in driving distance at the Turkish Airlines Open (300.9 yards) and ranks third for the season at 308.3 yards. He’s obviously playing well and has proven his ability to beat big names under pressure (like Ian Poulter). There’s always a chance he’ll be slightly burned out after such a big week, and surely an even bigger celebration, but we’d be surprised if Koepka’s name didn’t surface Sunday afternoon.
Before the Turkish Airlines Open, Koepka switched to Titleist’s new 915D2 driver. His version is 9.5° with a Mitsubishi Diamana White 82-gram X-flex shaft.
Perhaps the most mysterious man in the field, Victor Dubuisson gets more attention for his sorcerous short game than for his length off the tee. However, he’s quietly just outside the top-10 in driving distance on the European Tour (11th at 301.2 yards) and certainly has the touch around the greens to clean up pars after the occasionally wayward tee shot or approach, if needed. (See his performance in this year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play for a reminder.)
Dubuisson’s lone European Tour victory came at last year’s Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal (another course that awards bombers—see Koepka), and with a handful of top-10s this year in big events, the 24-year-old is due for another trophy.
The Frenchman is currently swinging a 9.5° Titleist 913D2 driver.
The DP World Tour defending champion, as well as the reigning Race to Dubai winner, will have a great chance to go back-to-back this week if his recent play is any indication. He finished third in Turkey, lost in the finals of the Volvo World Match Play and is currently 13th in European Tour driving distance (300.4 yards). He’s always a factor in big events (T4 in this year’s US Open and T3 at the PGA Championship) and is one of the world’s best strikers of the golf ball.
Stenson is playing a 9° Callaway X2 Hot driver that he has used for most of 2014. It has a 45-inch Oban Tour Blue 60-gram shaft.
What’s a Dubai preview, especially one based on driving distance, without Rory McIlroy? The world’s top-ranked player seems at his best when he’s able to swing away. He hasn’t played much since the Ryder Cup due to the ongoing legal battle with his former management team, but the 2014 version of McIlroy simply can’t be overlooked in this event. He said missing the first two events in the Race to Dubai was “annoying and frustrating,” and added that this weekend he wants “to get two trophies rather than one.” Watch out, field.
McIlroy is third this season in driving distance on both the European and PGA tours. If his game is at its best this week, he’ll be hard to beat.
In McIlroy’s bag will be the new Nike Vapor Pro driver. His gamer is 8.5° with a MRC Diamana S+, 70-gram Blue Board XTS shaft. When the club was unveiled recently, McIlroy praised it, saying he’s getting 10-15 more yards than with last year’s Nike Covert 2.0 Tour driver.
Check back on Monday to see how these bombers fared in Dubai, and to find out which club played the most important role in winning the DP World Tour Championship.