Shane Lowry back in Dubai fit and healthy and raring to go
Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Jamie Donaldson get ready for the shootout
Offalyman Shane Lowry is looking forward to the weekend where he also qualify for next year’s British Open.
What a difference a year makes, certainly in the case of Shane Lowry. A year ago, suffering from shingles, the Offalyman missed out on the season-ending DP World Championship in Dubai. Whilst he recuperated in a hospital in the emirates, his friend Rory McIlroy – then on top of the world – won the tournament and, with it, the Order of Merit.
Fast forward a year and, now, Lowry is back in Dubai fit and healthy and with only golf on his mind. He is not one of the five players who can top the 2013 European Tour moneylist and scoop all kinds of riches – that quintet consists of Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Jamie Donaldson – but the 26-year-old has a number of attainable targets to aim for as the season’s finale unfolds in the desert.
Of course, the primary target will be to win. But there are others too. A top-30 finish on the money list would earn Lowry a place in the field for next year’s British Open. A top-20 finish would get him into the WGC-Cadillac championship at Doral.
Likes the course
What’s more, he likes the Greg Norman-designed Fire course. “I’ve only played the course once as I was sick last year. The year I played it, I finished top 10 (eighth in 2011) and it suits my game. You can hit the ball high and fade it. And, if you can carry the ball 280 yards off the tee, which I’m doing, then you have a lot of fun. I ended up in hospital last year but I’m 100 per cent going into this week.”
Lowry actually occupies 35th place on the money list. “It’s always one of your targets at the start of the season as a European Tour player (to make it to Dubai) and I almost feel like, and without taking anything for granted, I should be competing in the event anyway. My targets are a little bit higher than that. I never set goals but I look back on what I’ve done and, if I did have a season when I didn’t make the Race to Dubai final, it would be a pretty poor season.”
The carrot of a place in the British Open is an added incentive for Lowry, not just because of the prestige of the Major but also because it would assist in his scheduling for the 2014 season. As he puts it, “if I do well (in Dubai), and finish the season top 30 (on the money list) and qualify for the Open, it means I can add the French Open onto my schedule.”
Lowry is one of three Irish players who have made it to the Race to Dubai finale, with McIlroy – in 46th – and McDowell, who has dropped down to third after opting to miss out on Turkey. A three-time winner on tour this season, McDowell can still overtake Stenson with victory this week.
Stenson, who has a wrist injury, is in pole position to become European number one: the Swede is €213,468 clear of second-placed Rose and is €321,800 ahead of McDowell. The €6.3 million purse on offer this week, however, means that five players have a mathematical chance to come out on top.
“My preparation is going to be less than I would have liked,” observed Stenson, with resting the wrist a major consideration.
“This is what the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai is all about, having quality players with a chance to win, not only the tournament, but also the money list and the Race to Dubai (title) . . . the course is one I’ve slowly crept up on over the last few years,” said McDowell, whose best finish was tied-52nd last year and tied-11th in 2011.
Rose, the closest pursuer of Stenson, closed the gap with his third place finish in Turkey. “I’ve gained some ground. It’s nice to be able to control your own fate. If I go in, win a golf tournament, which is obviously the aim any time you tee it up, that’s going to be the exact scenario I’m looking for. Fifth (in Shanghai), third (in Turkey), I like the way that’s trending towards number one. All I wanted was to get to Dubai with a chance and knowing it’s in my own hands.”
Although McIlroy can’t retain his Race to Dubai title, he showed evidence of a return to form with a tied sixth finish in the HSBC a fortnight ago. “He could win any given week,” tweeted McDowell, before jumping on a plane from Orlando for Dubai.