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How is an American who hasn't played in Europe since 2019 leading the Race to Dubai standings? Let's explain

April 19, 2021

Billy Horschel's victory at the WGC-Dell Match Play and second-place showing at the WGC-Workday have helped him surprisingly jump to the top of the European Tour's Race to Dubai standings.

Darren Carroll

Billy Horschel last competed on European soil in September 2019 as one of the few Americans to tee it up at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in England. He spoke glowingly of the event and tied for fourth that week. It was also the first and only time in his career that the 34-year-old Florida native played in a tournament overseen solely by the European Tour. Despite all this, in the circuit’s latest Race to Dubai standings, Horschel sits atop the season-long points race.

If that sounds as much hilarious as it does odd, we’ll explain.

In addition to the normal slate of European Tour events, the Race to Dubai standings count results from the four majors and World Golf Championships (just like the FedEx Cup standings do on the PGA Tour). For a player to accrue points that count toward for the European Tour’s season-long standings, the player doesn’t need to be a full-fledged member of that tour, but simply an affiliate member of the tour, which is Horschel’s status.

Still, how is he leading the points race without having played a single tournament that exclusively counts on the European Tour so far this season? Simple: There have already been two WGCs and a major played this year. Horschel won last month’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, tied for second in the WGC-Workday Championship in February and tied for 50th at the Masters two weeks ago. Add it all up, and that gives him 1,978.3 points, which is about 250 more than second-place and full-blown European Tour member Tyrrell Hatton has in his half dozen starts this year.

Horschel isn’t the only American high in the standings, either. Collin Morikawa is third with 1,494 points, while everyone’s favorite rookie Will Zalatoris, whose lone start across the pond came at the 2017 Porsche European Open while he was still an amateur, is fourth with 1,262 points.

European Tour's Race to Dubai standings as of April 19.

No American has ever finished the season atop the Race to Dubai standings, which was formally known as the Order of Merit. (It should also be noted that Tiger Woods would have won multiple Race to Dubai titles had he ever taken up membership.) Morikawa had a chance to win last year’s Race to Dubai thanks in large part to his PGA Championship victory, traveling over to compete in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship before finishing fourth. The 24-year-old California native has built the bulk of his total this year off his win at the WGC-Workday, a T-18 at the Masters, T-56 at the WGC-Dell Match Play and T-68 in Dubai in his lone European Tour start in 2021. Zalatoris, meanwhile, finished second at the Masters, T-28 at the WGC-Dell Match Play and T-22 at the WGC-Workday.

Of course with three more majors, two more WGCs and the bulk of the European Tour season still to be played, a lot can and likely will change in the RTD standings. If, however, Horschel, who won the FedEx Cup in 2014, were to go on to win, he would become just the third golfer after Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy to top the season-long standings on the PGA and European tours.