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Stephen Gallacher: Race for European number one shows why we’ve become a global tour

Could Collin Morikawa end the week as European No.1?
Could Collin Morikawa end the week as European No.1?

The DP World Tour Championship promises to be a thrilling end to the European Tour season but I’m fascinated to see who will end the year as the European number one.

It is not difficult to see why the European Tour is evolving into the DP World Tour next year when you see the contenders for the top spot this week.

Collin Morikawa’s Open win, which followed the WGC-Workday Championship in March, could result in him becoming the first American to win the season-long rankings.

But we could have another American pip him to the post in BMW PGA Championship winner Billy Horschel.

There are some European contenders too in Tyrrell Hatton, Paul Casey and defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick, but – depending on the permutations – Scottish Open champion Min Woo Lee of Australia could top the pile.

Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick.

He has to win and hope Horschel and Morikawa are not in contention. A lot of factors have to go his way, but it is not impossible when you look at the quality of the field this week.

A big prize fund attracts the big names and with the likes of Rory McIlroy around the stage is set for four rounds of top-class golf in Dubai.

They cannot win the overall standings, but I’m hoping the Scottish contingent of Grant Forrest, Calum Hill and Bob MacIntyre can have a good week.

The bigger picture in all of this is that the international list of contenders shows why we have become a truly global tour.

The strategic alliance with the PGA Tour was a significant step last year and with DP World also coming on board for the European Tour’s 50th year, it promises to be a game-changing development for us.

Roll on some normality in 2022

The 2021 season is officially done and dusted for me and it’s fair to say it has been another challenging year.

I feel as if lockdown was particularly tough and it’s no coincidence my form improved in the second half of the season.

Without question having crowds back and being able to do the normal things such as go out for dinner with some of my tour colleagues helped me immensely and that’s why I’m looking forward to 2022 with so much optimism.

We’re still in a pandemic, but it does feel as if we are slowly turning the corner and I’m hoping next year will be as close to business as usual as can be after two testing years.

I’m due to start the new season in mid-January in Abu Dhabi, where I will play five of the first six events, culminating in the Hero Indian Open, where I’ll finally get the chance to defend the title I won in 2019.

Between now and then the focus is on the usual things. Some family time, hitting some balls, improving my fitness and losing some weight. If I can do that then hopefully I can start the new season well.

David Drysdale will be back for an 18th year in a row.

I’m sure David Drysdale will be heading into the new season in good spirits after keeping his tour card for an 18th season in a row following a dramatic finale at the AVIV Dubai Championship.

I know it was a torturous weekend for him. He missed the cut, which took matters out of his own hands, and it could not have been easy sitting watching his rivals threaten to take the 121st and final spot on the Race To Dubai rankings from him.

In the end he made it right on the cut-off point and I’m thrilled for him. It was an emotional rollercoaster of a weekend for him and his wife Vicky, who doubles as his manager and caddie on tour.

Langer can’t kid a kidder

Bernhard Langer.

Bernhard Langer has undergone surgery on a long-standing knee injury this week, but I don’t for a second believe he’s winding down anytime soon.

I’ve expressed my admiration for the German a few times here and he’s earned a mention again this week after winning the Schwab Cup on the Champions Tour for a sixth time on Sunday.

He’s a truly phenomenal presence in the game and it speaks volumes about how good he is that he’s been so successful, despite being bothered by his knee for the better part of the last six years.

His surgery has led to Bernhard questioning how much longer he has in the game at the age of 64, but considering he had 24 top 10s in 39 starts this year, I don’t think he’s calling it a day anytime soon.

Sure he can’t hit the ball as long as some of his rivals, but there is no one fitter in the game. He’ll be back for his 15th season tour – and I expect he has a few more years left in him.

It’s only when that desire wanes that he’ll call it a day.

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