Refreshed McIlroy hoping to round off season in style
One last hurrah, but what a way to finish the season.
Although Rory McIlroy has ticked virtually all the necessary boxes before even teeing off in Thursday’s first round of the season-ending Dubai World Championship, with the world number one already assured of winning the European Tour money title for the first time, there remains unfinished business over the Earth course not just for the Ulsterman but also for the other Irish players who have reached the season’s finale.
Indeed, in his own way, Shane Lowry – 57th in the world rankings – has as much right to lick his lips in anticipation for the coming days.
The Offaly man is on the cusp of manoeuvring his way into the world’s top-50 which would bring with it the prize of an invite to the US Masters at Augusta next April. A top-10 in Dubai would very likely be sufficient to achieve that goal, although – given his recent form – Lowry will enter the fray in the elite field tournament which has no cut with a belief he can contend for the title itself.
In all, six Irish players – McIlroy, Lowry, Graeme McDowell, Pádraig Harrington, Michael Hoey and Peter Lawrie – have made it to the desert. McIlroy has the comfort of knowing he can’t be overtaken for the number one spot on the money table
McIlroy missed the cut in Hong Kong and immediately headed on to Dubai to work on some aspects of his game. “I definitely needed to work on my putting a little bit. I feel like I’m still hitting the ball well, just haven’t holed enough putts (in Singapore and Hong Kong). I was maybe a little bit tired, mentally and physically,” he said.
“I think if I was completely fresh, I wouldn’t have made the mistakes I did in Hong Kong last week.
“So in some ways, even though I obviously wanted to defend my title in Hong Kong, maybe having the weekend off worked out for the best, as it gave me the chance to rest up and recharge the batteries.
“It’s already been an amazing season, and hopefully I can round it off in style in Dubai this week.”
In fact, McIlroy intends having a very close look at his scheduling for the 2013 season and intends cutting back on the number of events he plays.
“There’s a part of me that perhaps wished my year had ended as soon as I wrapped up the Race to Dubai. I now look back over the last couple of years wondering why did I stretch myself so much? I’ve probably played an extra couple of tournaments too much and I’ve learnt from that.”
McIlroy’s appearance in Dubai will bring to 24 the number of official events – on the European Tour and PGA Tour – he has played this season. Add to that an appearance in the Ryder Cup and also two exhibition events, the Turkish Airlines World Final and the one-day Duel at Lake Jinsha with Tiger Woods, and his commitments make for a very long season.
For now, the intent will be on capping off a stellar season – during which he has made the world number one position his own, claimed a second Major title when winning the US PGA and also wrapped up the money titles on both sides of the Atlantic with tournaments in hand – in some style on a desert course where he has shown good form in the past: he had finished 11th (2011) fifth (2010) and third (2009) on the Greg Norman-designed course.
McIlroy will be joined at the Earth by five former European number ones in Lee Westwood (2000 and 2009), Harrington (2006), Justin Rose (2007), Martin Kaymer (2010) and Luke Donald (2011).
Harrington’s aim will be to finish the season on a high, having missed the cut in both Singapore and Hong Kong since lifting the Grand Slam title last month.
The Dubliner had worked with Dave Alred after missing the cut in Singapore and headed for Hong Kong in upbeat mood only to suffer from the effects of flu.
“I just didn’t do anything well, iron play, wedge play, chipping and putting. It was just one of those weeks that you mark down as a bad week and move on,” said Harrington.
Apart from the actual tournament – which has a $8 million purse – there is the added incentive for players to break into the top-10 on the money list and claim a portion of the $3.75 million bonus pool on offer.