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Irish trio hoping to make hay at business end of year in Sun City

Shane Lowry, Paul Dunne and Pádraig Harrington all have differing ambitions

Paul Dunne of Ireland in action ahead of the 2017 Nedbank Golf challenge at Gary Player CC in Sun City, South Africa. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The Irish trio of Shane Lowry, Paul Dunne and Pádraig Harrington all head to Sun City in South Africa this week with quite different ambitions.

While Lowry will be looking to get over the disappointment of letting a 54-hole lead slip at last week’s Turkish Open, Dunne is hoping to climb four places into the lucrative top-10 of the Race to Dubai rankings while Harrington, playing on another sponsor’s exemption, has only Ryder Cup points on his mind at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

Lowry’s €131,094 cheque for a tied-eighth finish in Antalya last week was enough to secure him a place in next week’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai thanks to his current position of 49th in the Race to Dubai rankings, but still leaves him 39 places short of his aim of getting back into the top 50 of the world rankings. A rise into the top 64 would ensure him of a place at the WGC World Matchplay next March.

Dunne – who sits nine places ahead of Lowry in the world rankings and also has an eye on the matchplay – is just €266,256 behind 10th place in the Race to Dubai rankings with the top-10 after next week’s finale sharing a bonus prize pool of US$5 million. However, just remaining in the top 20 will ensure Dunne of a place at next year’s British Open, as well as the World Golf Championship in Mexico and the Bridgestone Invitational.

Plenty to play for, then.

For Harrington it’s a case of looking ahead. Playing on a sponsor’s exemption for the second week in a row the three-time major champion is ineligible for Race to Dubai points but can pick up more Ryder Cup points in his quest to play in the event for a seventh time and for the first time since 2010.

At the top of the Race to Dubai, Tommy Fleetwood says he would happily be responsible for a “boring” end to the season as he looks to hold off the inspired challenge of Justin Rose.

Fleetwood looked home and dry a few weeks ago with nearest rivals Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm not going out of their way to catch him, but fellow Englishman Rose had other ideas.

The Olympic champion was a distant 10th on the money list before banking more than 2.4 million points with back-to-back victories in the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open to slash Fleetwood’s lead to just 134,839.

The good news for Fleetwood is that Rose, after some thought on Sunday evening, has stuck with his planned schedule and will not play this week, meaning Fleetwood is guaranteed to increase his lead in a 72-man event which has no halfway cut.

And a third victory of the season in Sun City would give Fleetwood an unassailable lead in the battle to end the year as European number one, even if Rose triumphs in next week's Dubai finale.

“Hats off to Rosey for the way he’s played the last couple of weeks,” Fleetwood said. “It’s made it an interesting finish but I could make it a lot more boring this week if I have a good week.

“It’s still kind of in my hands. I’ve got to keep concentrating on what I’m doing and I played nice last week. I went the last two rounds without a bogey but I didn’t convert many of my birdie chances.

“I’d like to win the tournament and it’s at that stage where every shot counts. I’d like to start tournaments off a little bit quicker. The last couple I have played okay on Thursdays and not scored very well and then you’re behind the eight ball.

“I’d like to get off to a good start but if you don’t, keep going and keep your head down.

“Aside from everything else that is going on, it’s one of those tournaments that you’d love to win — I’d love to have my name on that path walking up the ninth hole (at the Gary Player Country Club).”

Fleetwood finished 14th in Sun City last year, improving in every round after an opening 75, and believes the course should suit his game.

“It’s tough,” the 26-year-old from Southport added. “You’re not going to get away with shots off line this week. You really have to think about where you’re putting the ball, even into the greens.

“I think with the wind swirling there’s a lot of patience involved, a lot of knowing where you can hit and where you can’t. It should in general suit me, but you’ve still got to play well, you’ve got to hit good golf shots, but I love the course.”