As recently as six years ago, the season-ending event, which takes place at Jumeirah Golf Estates, didn’t feature a single Scot while only one was in the field for the 2018 edition then again in 2019.
Fast forward and five players in the 50-man field flying under the Saltire have made it on this occasion to the United Arab Emirates, namely Ewen Ferguson, Bob MacIntyre, Connor Syme, Richie Ramsay and David Law.
That’s the same number as 2020, but, with all due respect, this is the better achievement because the field on that occasion was somewhat diluted because of the impact of the Covid pandemic around the world. Three of those players are also sitting in the top 20 in the DP World Tour Rankings heading into the season finale.
For Ferguson, it will be his first appearance in this particular Rolex Series event, having locked that down when he backed up a brilliant breakthrough win in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in March by adding the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland in August.
It’s been a fantastic year for the 26-year-old Bearsden man and he’ll be determined to make one final push, having put himself in a position to be crowned as DP World Tour Rookie of the Year but having work to do to come out on top against South African Thriston Lawrence in that exciting sideshow in the desert.
MacIntyre, meanwhile, is teeing up in his fourth successive DP World Tour Championship and it’s a stage he’s fared well on. A top-15 finish in 2019 saw him become Rookie of the Year before making the top 25 again the following year then getting right in the mix 12 months ago.
The Oban man ended up joint-fourth behind Collin Morikawa and, in doing so, became the first Scot to finish in the top ten on what was formerly the European Tour since Paul Lawrie in 2012 and only the second since 2006.
More of the same from MacIntyre on the Earth Course and he could repeat that feat while, at the same time, rack up a pile of Ryder Cup points in the Italian Open champion’s quest to be back at Marco Simone Golf Club next September on Luke Donald’s European team.
Syme was part of that quintet two years ago and he’s earned a return on the back of a very encouraging campaign, having finished twice, third on another occasion and chalking up five top tens in total. As a result, the 27-year-old Fife-based player is easily enjoying his highest finish in four seasons sitting at the top table.
For Ramsay, it will be a seventh appearance in the event, which carries a $10 million prize fund, but first since 2017, having set up the opportunity mainly through winning the Cazoo Classic at Hillside in July.
“I’ve got a lot of people coming out to watch, so for me it’s just about trying to soak it up,” said the Edinburgh-based Aberdonian of the satisfaction he feels from seeing his season go the full distance again, having finished fourth behind Tommy Fleetwood in the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa at the weekend. “You never know what can happen in golf and it might not come around again.”
In Law’s case, that is happening for the first time and the Aberdonian deserves the chance to be playing for some bucks after producing some real consistency this season, albeit missing the one eye-catching result that makes such a huge difference. That said, he played in his first major when teeing up in the 150th Open and gave a great account of himself at St Andrews.
The main focus, of course, this week will be on Rory McIlroy as he bids to join Henrik Stenson as the only players to be crowned as No 1 on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour in the same season, with Kiwi Ryan Fox standing in his way after a brilliant campaign.
US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, a two-time DP Tour Championship winner, is also in the field along with the likes of Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry and Fleetwood, though Morikawa hasn’t returned to defend his title.
To have five Scots in the field, though, is no mean feat at a time when there are more countries than ever being represented on the circuit and, to put that into perspective, that total is three more than the Danish contingent and they’ve got a brilliant crop of players at the moment.