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McIlroy faces big battle in Dubai

Alex Livie November 21, 2012
Lee Westwood's brilliant iron play can carry him a long way in Dubai © Getty Images
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Click here to bet on the DP World Tour Championship at bet365

After 44 tournaments, the European Tour season draws to a close with its flagship event: the DP World Tour Championship. The cream of the European crop will tee it up on the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Estate in Dubai - but some of the lustre has been taken off the event as Rory McIlroy has already wrapped up the money list. Irrespective of that, there is still some $8 million up for grabs and there are 57 of the world's top stars battling for a share of the pot.

McIlroy has been completely dominant in the closing couple of months of the season, like he was at the start of the year, and his form in the desert has the bookmakers running scared. McIlroy won his first title at the Dubai Desert Classic and finished third (2009), fifth (2010) and tied 11th (2011) in the last three renewals of the DP World Tour Championship. It's little surprise that he has been chalked up at 11/2 by bet365. Such is his talent, he could blitz the field but he missed the cut when attempting to defend his Hong Kong Open title last week and cited fatigue as the reason behind his failure.

Betting bullets

  • Lee Westwood E/W - 14/1 at bet365
    George Coetzee E/W 30/1
    Paul Lawrie E/W - 35/1

"I think if I was completely fresh, I wouldn't have made the mistakes I did in Hong Kong last week," McIlroy said. "So in some ways, even though I obviously wanted to defend my title in Hong Kong, maybe having the weekend off worked out for the best, as it gave me the chance to rest up and recharge the batteries. It's already been an amazing season, and hopefully I can round it off in style in Dubai this week."

It could be that a weekend off will recharge the batteries, he thinks it might, but at the prices it is worth sidestepping the world No. 1 on this occasion.

With the world No. 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 all in the field, it is likely that the cream will rise to the top. Don't envisage a big outsider winning and our idea of the man to follow is Lee Westwood. The world No. 4 is comfortable on the Greg Norman-designed track as he won the event in 2009 and holds the course record. Precision play with your irons is a must and that is Westwood's forte. Scoring is often low here and although Westwood does tend to struggle with the putter he will more than likely fashion enough chances to post a score that will mean he challenges deep into the weekend.

With such a high-class field on display, it would be somewhat foolish to put all your eggs in one basket and our second dart at the board is Paul Lawrie. The Scot, Open champion in 1999, has rediscovered the form that took him to his major win and is now one of the most consistent players on Tour. He has two wins to his name this year, the Qatar Masters and Johnnie Walker Championship. His victory in Qatar proves he is comfortable playing in the desert, which was reinforced by his runner-up spot in this event 12 months ago. He has kept his form well in recent weeks and 35/1 is too big to pass up.

The final selection is George Coetzee, who it's fair to describe as one of the European Tour's nearly men. He has been in contention time and again this year but is yet to get himself over the line. The lack of a victory may put some off, but the talent is there waiting to be unlocked. His debut in the event last year saw him finish 22nd, closing with rounds of 69 and 67, and with four top-six finishes in his last six starts - he makes rock-solid each-way appeal at 30/1.

Please note that odds are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.

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Alex Livie was editor of ESPN.co.uk