Harrington needs to do well in Turkish Airlines Open or it’s goodbye to Dubai

Dubliner needs high finish in Antalya to make end-of-season desert gig


It all comes to this, one last shot at making the tour’s big end-of-season gig in the desert. Pádraig Harrington is on the outside looking in as far as the Race to Dubai qualifying ticket is concerned but the Dubliner competes in this week’s no-cut Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya – with €848,930 on offer to the winner – aware it could be a game changer.

Harrington, 67th on the Race to Dubai rankings, must break into the top-60 on the European Tour’s maiden visit to Turkey if he is to gatecrash the party. To achieve that, he is likely to require a top-10 finish at least, although the final numbers and finishing position will be determined by how those immediately ahead of him on the money list also perform.Harrington is €78,663 behind Danny Willett in 60th position heading Antalya.

In contrast, Shane Lowry returns to tournament play in Turkey – having missed out on last week’s WGC-HSBC tournament in Shanghai – knowing his place at the European Tour’s season-ending DP World championship in Dubai is secure. He is 33rd in the standings with a big run of events ahead that will include a first appearance in the World Cup in Australia.

Lowry’s aim in the coming weeks is two-fold: to seek a first win of the season, and to garner sufficient world-ranking points by the year’s end to move into the world’s top-50 and earn an invitation to the Masters in April. He is 72nd.

Harrington and Lowry are the only two Irish players in Antalya, where world number one Tiger Woods – scheduled to hit a symbolic shot from East to West on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul today as a precursor to the tournament – and Henrik Stenson, who heads the money list, head the field.

Graeme McDowell is the closest pursuer of Stenson in the race to head the order of merit, but the Ulsterman – third in the WGC-HSBC – has chosen not to add Turkey on to his schedule.

G-Mac trails the Swede by €145,865 and will be hoping Stenson doesn’t open up too much further daylight on him and that the quest to be Europe’s number one will still be alive heading into Dubai next week.

Work focus
“I’ll be fresh, ready in Dubai whatever happens and just trying to give myself a shot going into Dubai,” said McDowell, who claimed his work focus in his off-week will be on the putter.

“There’s a little bit of work needed with the flat stick,” he conceded.

Of his decision to bypass Turkey when there is so much prizemoney on offer and the chance to overtake or at least close the gap on Stenson, McDowell explained: “I don’t want to be on the road for five weeks, because I’m playing the World Cup the week after Dubai . . . it’s a tough time of year. I’ve done the last six, seven weeks on the spin stuff (in the past) and I’m just trying to be sensible (with scheduling). I want to be fresh going into Dubai.”

He added: “This is what we want going into the Race to Dubai. This is what the Dubai World Championship is all about, having quality players with a chance to win, not only the tournament, but the money list and the Race to Dubai for the year. So you know, I’m just happy to have another opportunity to do that.”

US Open champion Justin Rose, fifth in Shanghai and third behind Stenson and McDowell on the European Tour money list, remarked of how the plot is unfolding: “I feel that the Race to Dubai has gotten pretty fruity now going into the last couple of tournaments.

“Henrik probably couldn’t believe the leaderboard (in the HSBC), probably the worst possible leaderboard for him, with G-Mac, Poults, me, and even Gonzalo (Fernandez Castano) . . . . so everybody is breathing down his neck and it’s going to be an exciting Race to Dubai.”

Rose and Poulter have, unlike McDowell, moved on to Turkey following their efforts in China.