For Bernd Wiesberger, what a difference a year makes. This time 12 months ago, the Austrian was in Dubai, yet he was not contesting the DP World Tour Championship (DPWTC), the season-finale on the European Tour.
Instead, Wiesberger was putting in the hard yards on the range, coming back from a seven-month absence precipitated by his injured wrist. While the continent’s top golfers were teeing it up at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Wiesberger was preparing for his long-awaited return, at the Mauritius Open in late November.
Fast forward a year, though, and how things have changed. Wiesberger is not only competing at the DPWTC this week, but he enters as the lead man in the Race to Dubai.
From fitness issues to front-runner. A lot of water has flowed under that metaphorical bridge.
“Obviously last year, being a bit different, as you all know,” Wiesberger said on Wednesday, before inclement weather curtailed practice on site. “Yeah, lots of progress since. And obviously very delighted to be here in Dubai and even more so to sit here now as the leader going into the final event. It's pretty nice to be back.”
It most certainly is. Wiesberger, 34, is perched on pole largely because of early-season victories at the Made in Denmark, the Scottish Open and the Italian Open – the latter two are Rolex Series events and thus carry increased points – and two other top-three finishes.
Another win, maybe even a second around the Earth Course this week, would clinch the Race to Dubai crown. The threat is four-fold, although one of Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Shane Lowry or Matt Fitzpatrick would likely have to win and hope Wiesberger succumbs to the strain. Not that the world No 23 is getting caught up in all that.
"Right now my focus is on that first tee shot and get the week going," he said. "I've been here so many times in different situations on the Race to Dubai leaderboard, but I know the golf course really well. Most of the guys do. So it's not about getting over-prepared, because it hasn't changed much over the years.
"The game plan is there so just see whatever the conditions are going to be day-to-day. From then on, just be as offensive as possible out there; be positive towards my targets. We add up four rounds of golf and a couple of points and we'll see where we're at.
"There's just absolutely no point in getting into the mathematics and what-ifs and all that. Just trying to play as good golf as possible. That's all we can do."
To be fair, that could be easier said than done. A seven-time winner on the circuit, Wiesberger understands the gravitas of being crowned European No 1, particularly back home, where he would be celebrated as the first Austrian to have topped the tour's seasonal standings.
Yet after disappointing performances in China and Turkey – T49th and 49th – he sprung back into life at last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge, coming home tied-third. It kept his date with history well on track.
“It would be a huge achievement for me,” Wiesberger said. “Growing up watching European Tour golf and watching legends like Seve [Ballesteros], [Jose Maria] Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie who has won so many times in a row at the time when I started getting into golf; something that looked a long distance away, but obviously much closer now.
“So we're looking forward to those next four days and going to give it everything we have. And, hopefully, if we count up all the points at the end of Sunday [and] we’re still up there it would be amazing.”
Amazing would rather aptly sum up his journey this past year. “We've got to keep it in perspective," said Wiesberger, attempting to play it down. “I mean, I wasn't in a life-threatening situation. But it was good getting a new perspective on everything.
“I was able to make a couple changes, which worked out nicely. Therefore, it's even more pleasing to sit here now in the position and enjoy this last week of the year and try to do our best, just as we've done the whole year.”