European TourGolf

DP World Tour Championship betting preview: Earth is the question, Abraham the Ancer

November 15, 2021January 6th, 2022

THERE'S a sense of deja vu about this week. Earlier this month there was a congregation of the world’s great and good to discuss the future of the planet and one or two big names didn’t bother attending. Similarly, the European Tour’s finest performers have assembled in Dubai, Earth is their big test, and a few of them have opted to stay at home.

It’s all a little rum because it was only last Wednesday, at the launch of the European Tour’s transformation into the DP World Tour, that Jon Rahm was patting himself on the back for being a world golfer. Within days he’d passed up on the opportunity to win this tournament for a third time and with it claim the Race to Dubai title. At the end of a frenetic season that has involved the birth of his first child, a maiden major championship victory and multiple brushes with Covid, he’s clearly had to prioritise, but it’s a reminder that it’s a perilous business trying to please all of the people all of the time.

Justin Rose and Viktor Hovland have joined Rahm in staying home and the Race to Dubai is, unless they both have shockers, a two-horse race between the two Americans Collin Morikawa, currently first, and Billy Horschel, in second. Both are World Golf Championship winners this season, with the former adding the Open and the latter the BMW PGA Championship. Morikawa’s class and relentless consistency should see him clinch that seasonal gong, but I’m tempted to look elsewhere for this week’s selections.

Each Way – Abraham Ancer at 18/1

The top of the market is difficult to split. Rory McIlroy is a two-time winner of the event and a two-time winner this season, but backing him at 6/1 would be an expensive week-to-week activity. Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick, another two-time course winner, has to be respected. So do the likes of Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Paul Casey. They all have course form, Middle Eastern form and sufficient class to lift the trophy. 

But ultimately you have to look for an angle you trust, one that will steer a path through the fog, and I feel like I have it in the guise of form at TPC Southwind. Back in 2009 Lee Westwood, a Southwind winner, won the European Tour’s first visit to the Earth Course and he was succeeded by two-time Southwind play-off loser Robert Karlsson. There have been four two-time winners at Earth and three of them have performed nicely at Southwind: McIlroy has three top 12 finishes in his last four starts there, Rahm has been seventh (opening with a 62), and Fitzpatrick has two top sixes. 

All of which leads me to this year’s Southwind winner Abraham Ancer and the Mexican’s chances extend beyond that one course link. Winners at Earth tend to have good desert golf form and Ancer has top six finishes in Las Vegas and Palm Springs on the PGA Tour, and in Saudi Arabia on the European Tour. They also tend to be very fine performers from the tee box, featuring highly in season-end Strokes Gained Off the Tee rankings. Ancer ranked 25th last year on the PGA Tour and 10th in 2019. Then there’s his form: seven top 15 finishes in his last 10 starts, most of those against high class company. He can go well again this week. 

Each Way – Danny Willett at 45/1

Second pick is Englishman Danny Willett whose early laps of the course were far from impressive, but since he carded a 65 on his third visit he has started to fly. In 2014 he was second at halfway and he improved on that with tied fourth in 2015. A year later his career peaked with green jacket glory at the Masters whereupon he plunged into the depths of form and fitness despair. 

He broke the cycle of poor returns with victory here in 2018 and was fifth on defence two years ago. So that’s three top fives, one of them a win, in his last six tournament starts and in another two of those performances he was inside the top 10 with 18 holes to play. He’s a far from consistent golfer, but he’s won the BMW PGA Championship and this year’s Dunhill Links Championship in the last two years. His best golf is exceptional and can see him contend once more.

First round leader – Lucas Herbert at 40/1

There’s lots to like about the chances of young Aussie Lucas Herbert. For one thing, he’s already a winner in the Middle East (in the 2020 Dubai Desert Classic), he’s a winner on the European Tour this season (July’s Irish Open), and he’s a winner in the last few weeks (the PGA Tour’s Bermuda Championship). 

I also like that he has the capacity to go low and he looks a lively chance in the first round leader market. In his last 40 starts on the European Tour he has two solo and one shared first round lead. And in the United Arab Emirates he has teed it up in 28 rounds, landing the low score once, twice been the tied-low scorer, with another two place finishes. Another fast start this Thursday is well within his grasp.