Collin Morikawa will aim to become the first American to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai at the season-ending $9 million DP World Tour Championship.
A new European Tour No.1 is sure to be crowned this week, with only six players in the 53-man field having a mathematical chance to win the Harry Vardon Trophy.
World No.2 Morikawa, holds a slim 236-point advantage at the top of the standings over compatriot Billy Horschel.
They are the only two players in charge of their own destiny – a win for either secures them the No.1 honour.
Others in the reckoning are England’s Tyrrell Hatton, Australia’s Min Woo Lee, and the English duo of Matt Fitzpatrick and Paul Casey, but even if they win the tournament, they will have to depend on where the two Americans finish.
On offer this week is the richest winner's cheque of $3 million for the champion and 2,000 Race to Dubai points.
In the absence of the world No.1 Jon Rahm of Spain – the twice winner of the championship (2017 and 2019) has decided not to travel to Dubai and spend time with his family – Morikawa is the highest-ranked player in the field.
On Tuesday, the European Tour honoured Morikawa, the 2021 British Open and the 2020 PGA Championship winner, with an honorary life membership.
And while that was a big deal, he made it clear that there was a bigger mission at Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Earth course starting Thursday.
"It would mean a lot (to become the first American to win Race to Dubai). Hopefully, we can talk a little bit more late Sunday.
"I was here last year, and we had a shot at trying to win the Race to Dubai. Didn’t come through. It’s comforting to come back to a course I’ve played at before," said the 24-year-old from Las Vegas.
- 'Good spot' -
He added: "I’m not taking this week lightly. I worked so hard through the regular season to put myself in a good spot. I don’t want to let this go."
Horschel, winner of the WGC Match Play and the BMW PGA Championship this year, can afford to finish in eighth place and still win the Race to Dubai, but Morikawa will have to finish rank last for that to happen.
"Growing up in the States, all I thought about was winning on the PGA Tour, winning majors, being the Player of the Year on the PGA Tour.
"I did grow up watching a lot of European Tour coverage, but I never envisioned myself playing over here or having the success I’ve had," said the 2014 FedEx Cup champion.
"I think this point in my career, this is probably the best year I’ve ever had. I know I won the FedEx Cup, but that year I didn’t play great until the very end, and this year I’ve been pretty consistent.
"But to win two big tournaments, and then to possibly add the Race to Dubai, be the first American to win the Order of Merit, would obviously be the best of my career.”
Among other players in the field are Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, Canadian Abraham Ancer and American Will Zalatoris.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia and American Patrick Reed, even though they haven’t played the minimum number of events on the European Tour to qualify, were given special exemption by the Tour because of the pandemic-related travel restriction this year.