Justin Rose rates his season worthy of a B-plus or A-minus at the moment, but believes he can earn an upgrade with victory in the DP World Tour Championship and a second Race to Dubai title.
Rose is one of seven players in contention to end the season as the European No 1, although the former US Open champion needs to finish in second place or better in Dubai to have a chance of overhauling leader Rory McIlroy.
Even a second European Tour title of the season at Jumeirah Golf Estates would not be enough if McIlroy, who has never finished outside the top 11 in six appearances, finished alone in second spot.
But Rose is confident that his recent victory in Hong Kong and his own course form in Dubai – he has finished second, tenth and second in the last three years – gives him the chance to claim a second money list title.
“I fancy my chances,” said Rose, who finished top of the Order of Merit in 2007. “Rory pipped me in 2012 when I remember being two ahead playing the last and made birdie. There are very few times you play the last two ahead and make birdie and lose. Rory was a few holes behind and birdied the last five to win.
“Obviously he has a great record. Henrik Stenson [defending champion] has a great record here. I would say me, Rory and Henrik, all of us have played incredibly well at this venue the last few years.
“There’s a pretty fair chance that one of us is going to be there on Sunday and obviously we are all hoping it’s going to be the right guy from our own point of view. Whoever wins is going to still have to play their best golf.
“For me, it’s a pretty simple equation. I need to go out and pretty much win the tournament and if I do that, it could be a great week. There’s probably more pressure because I have to win, but it’s a much more simple equation. Those guys [McIlroy and second-placed Danny Willett] are going to have to keep their eye on one another because there’s a scenario where they could finish 20th and 25th and pick up the Race to Dubai.”
Rose has won once on the PGA Tour and once on the European Tour this season, but can count himself unlucky not to have claimed a second major title after brilliant performances in the Masters and US PGA Championship.
Asked to give himself a mark for the season, Rose said: “I think having won in Hong Kong, I think it goes up to certainly the B-plus, A-minus range.
“My play in the major championships I think was probably a highlight. I think I was maybe fourth all-time low score in the majors combined and that’s something to be proud of. In the Masters, Open Championship and the PGA Championship, I had a chance to win on Sunday.
“If I played like I did this year, next year, maybe that would result in one or two major championships. For me it’s about consistency and if I continue to put myself in that position, then the door is going to open for me. This year I’ve been beaten a couple of times by record-breaking performances; Jason Day was 20 under at the PGA and Jordan (Spieth) 18 under at the Masters.
“It’s taken record-breaking performances to prevent me from winning. I felt I did all the right things to give myself a chance to win, so I just need to continue that next year, and you sometimes can’t force the victory. It just needs to happen.”
Stenson is seeking a third consecutive victory in Dubai but a first win of a season that has produced five runners-up finishes and five other top 10s.
“It’s one of my favourite weeks of the year and I’m excited about the opportunity to make it three in a row,” the 39-year-old Swede said. “It’s not going to be easy, I know that much.
“I’ve got 59 other players who want to stop me dearly and I’m just going to go out and try and make the same plan and, hopefully, play somewhat close to what I’ve done the previous two years, and we’ll see if we can give it a shot.
“I think it’s going to be difficult to win a tournament like this no matter how the [Race to Dubai] standings are, but of course it’s going to maybe even make those boys focus a bit more because it’s all or nothing – they have to win to have a chance for the overall title.
“It might make them try a little harder, but I guess it can backfire if you’re trying too hard as well.”