Dubai World Championship preview

The 2011 European Tour circuit reaches its climax this week with the Dubai World Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Robert Karlsson defends the title and Luke Donald will look to secure the Race to Dubai.

Robert Karlsson defends the Dubai World Championship (Getty Images)

Lowdown: The 2011 European Tour circuit reaches its climax this week with the Dubai World Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Robert Karlsson defends the title and Luke Donald will look to secure the Race to Dubai. After Rory McIlroy's victory last week in the UBS Hong Kong Open, he's moved within striking distance of Luke Donald at the top of the Race to Dubai standings. Should the Northern Irishman win this week, and Donald finish outside the top nine, the Englishman would be thwarted in his historic bid to finish the year at the top of both the European and PGA Tour money lists. The top 60 players on the European Tour money list, following the UBS Hong Kong Open, are in the field this week at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai. With a huge prize fund of over €5 million, there's still much to play for besides the battle for the overall Race to Dubai crown. There's also a €5.5 million bonus pool to be distributed between the players who finish in the top-15 on the money list. With less than €500,000 separating Alex Noren in 12th spot and Raphael Jacquelin in 33rd, a victory here for a player currently outside the top 15 could be extremely lucrative. This is the third time this tournament has been contested. In 2009 Lee Westwood put on a masterclass to finish six clear of Ross McGowan and to secure the inaugural Race to Dubai. Last year, Robert Karlsson took the title but Martin Kaymer did enough to be crowned European Number One.

Venue: Earth Course, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai Date: Dec 8-11 Course stats: par 72, 7,675 yards Purse: €5,600,000 Winner: €950,000 Defending Champion: Robert Karlsson (-14)

TV Coverage: Thursday 8 - Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8am Friday 9 - Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8am Saturday 10 - Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8am Sunday 11 - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8am

Player Watch: All eyes will be on Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald as they battle it out to finish the year as European Number 1, but who else might spring a surprise in Dubai?

Ian Poulter - He lost in a playoff for this tournament last year and he was fourth last week in Hong Kong. He'll look to close the door on a slightly disappointing season with a bang.

Paul Casey - After a poor opening round in last week's Chevron World Challenge, Casey struck back with three rounds in the 60s to finish third. He was sixth in last year's Dubai World Championship and he placed fourth on his last European Tour start at the WGC - HSBC Champions.

Sergio Garcia - Rejuvenated by two consecutive victories in Spain, Garcia is up to seventh on the Race to Dubai standings and back inside the World's top-20. He'll look to prove he's truly returned to his best this week. Key hole: 18th. A long par 5 with water to the right from the tee and bunkers to the left. The second shot requires a decision - the fairway is split in two and you can either play to a generous landing area on the left leaving a longer and more difficult third, or go to the narrow lay-up area on the right leaving a more straightforward pitch. It's a great tactical challenge.

Skills required: Finishing. The last four holes of the Earth Course are particularly testing. The 15th is a short yet strategically demanding par 4, then comes a tough and long par 4 where water lurks right, the 17th is an exciting par 3 where the players fire to an island green, the round culminates with the challenging par 5 as described above. Negotiating these closing holes will be the key to success around the Earth Course.

Where next? Chevron World Challenge - Tiger Woods wins

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?