BERND Wiesberger is determined to hold off the challenge of three Ryder Cup players and The Open Champion as he aims to become Austria’s first Race to Dubai Champion at the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
The 34-year-old, who missed most of the 2018 season through injury, has enjoyed an impressive 2019 campaign, winning three times, including Rolex Series titles at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open and the Italian Open.
After a tied third place finish at last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, Wiesberger holds a 722-point advantage over Tommy Fleetwood, the champion in South Africa, on Sunday, in the Race to Dubai.
Wiesberger, who has the chance to land this week’s record $3million first prize in the United Arab Emirates, said: “It would be a first off, obviously. Unfortunately, we haven’t had an Austrian winner of the Race to Dubai or the overall rankings at any point.
“Personally, it would be a huge achievement for me, something that, you know, growing up watching European Tour golf and watching legends like Seve, Olazábal and Colin Montgomerie – who himself has won so many times in a row – at the time when I started getting into golf.
“It’s something that looked a long distance away, but obviously much closer now.
“We are looking forward to the next four days and going to give it everything we have. And hopefully if we count up all the points at the end of Sunday, we’re still up there and it would be amazing.
“I’m very, very lucky right now in Austria with not only myself playing well this year, but also Matthias (Schwab) doing a great job, and almost catching a couple titles this year.”
Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai two years ago, said: “This is my third year in a row where I’m one of those players that has a chance to win the Race to Dubai.
“It’s very special. There’s only a certain number of people that have the Race to Dubai on their resume, and I’m lucky to be one of them.
“I think it’s one of my greatest achievements and I think I have experienced both sides,” said one of the heroes of Europe’s 2018 Ryder Cup winning team.
“In 2017 when I won, I led it for such a long time. In 2018, I set out and it was never a goal at the start of the year to win the Race to Dubai.
“And all of a sudden, just because it was a possibility, it became something that really hurt when I didn’t.
“But realistically, I had not thought about it all year until sort of the last few events that I had a chance.
“I just think it’s important this year that I take those experiences into it and know that it still takes a lot to do it and it’s not in my hands at all.
“I can only do my best this week, take one shot at a time.” added Fleetwood, who had not won for nearly two years before his stunning final round containing three eeagles at Sun City’s Gary Player Country Club.
With 2,000 Race to Dubai points on offer to the winner of the DP World Tour Championship, along with the richest-ever first prize in world tournament golf, Spaniard Jon Rahm, Champion Golfer of the Year Shane Lowry and Yorkshire’s Matthew Fitzpatrick can also win the coveted European No. 1 title, on Sunday.
Wiesberger is in pole position and should he either win or finish second alone in the tournament at Jumeriah Golf Estates, he will be crowned Race to Dubai champion regardless of how the others finish.
Rahm has been lightly raced since the end of the FedEx Cup, and will be hoping to emulate his hero Seve Ballesteros by becoming European No. 1.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to take a lot of important weeks off and still have a chance to win the Race to Dubai,” said Rahm.
“I know even though it was a smaller event, winning in Spain was important in that sense.
“I’d rather be the front man, honestly. You don’t necessarily have to win. You just need to play good.
“Anybody that’s not the leader has a chance to win. I know there’s always odds, I think if I finish tied for second and some other things happen, I might win, as well.
“But I’m here to win, and hopefully I just get it done and not have to think about possible consequences about it.”
With Wiesberger’s closest rivals needing to either win or finish second to stand any chance of overhauling him, Wiesberger could also benefit from strong performances from those outside the top five on the Race to Dubai.
That includes World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, who has twice won the DP World Tour Championship alongside four other top 10 finishes in his nine appearances.
The winner of the Players Championship, the FedEx Championship and the WGC-HSBC Champions in 2019 ironically deprived himself the chance of a fourth Race to Dubai title this week – and his first European / PGA Tour double – by his decision not to rejoin the European Tour after the Masters.
That cost McIlroy, who won the Race to Dubai in 2012 2014 and 2015, more than 1,700 Race to Dubai points.
Lowry looking to deny Wiesberger
Lowry had been very bullish about his chances of becoming European No. 1 back in September with the Rolex Series events at Wenworth, and in Italy.
But the 32-year-old has failed to reignite his form since the memorable scenes when he lifted the Claret Jug, at Royal Portrush, in July
“I suppose I’ve not really thought about it before the last few months,” Lowry admitted.
“I did have a chance here in 2015, if I won the tournament, I could have won the Race to Dubai – and I’m in a similar situation this week.
“I ended up finishing fifth that year,” added Lowry, who won the WGC Bridgestone Invitational that summer to jump up the rankings.
“It would be great,” said Shane. “You look at the names that are on the trophy and the people that have won it.
“I think anybody who is anybody in golf has won that trophy.
“Obviously, it would be really nice. It would be icing on the cake to cap off what is a good year.”
Matthew Fitzpatrick is also trying to maintain his record of having won on tour every year, and already has a victory on the Earth Course to his name three years ago.
“I think having that experience in 2016, to have been able to done it around this golf course, was massive,” said the Sheffield ace.
“You know, when I first ever came here, it wasn’t a golf course that people thought I could do well around, really.
“But it’s a golf course I love. I feel like it suits my game. I have good iron play and really good putting, and that’s the big difference.
“I feel like my last couple of results, I have two top 10 and my game feels like it’s trending in the right direction.
“It’s a shame that the year is coming to an end and there’s not a major coming up soon, but it’s been a good year and, I feel pretty confident right now,” said Fitzpatrick.