Players reluctant to tweak ‘Final Series’ despite McIlroy’s runaway success

Barring an extraordinary climax to season, Irishman destined to top the order of merit

The man once known as 'El Nino' in his younger days doesn't see any need for winds of change, or any requirement to fiddle with the system. Nor does Lee Westwood believe there is any need for further tweaking.

Quite simply, if Rory McIlroy is atop the European Tour order of merit despite missing three of the four tournaments that make up the so-called "Final Series", then so be it. The top man is there for a reason.

As Sergio Garcia, one of three men with an outside chance of catching the world number one, put it here in Belek on the eve of the Turkish Airlines Open: "I'm a big believer in, if you have done something extraordinary to be able to achieve (winning the Race to Dubai), to win before the last tournament happens, why shouldn't you be the winner? I think Rory did something quite extraordinary this season . . . and maybe he deserves to be the champion, even before we play (the Tour Championship) in Dubai next week."

Garcia’s belief was endorsed by Westwood, a player who won two career money titles, the second back in 2009 when he famously leapfrogged none other than McIlroy.

Phenomenal year

“I’m a big fan of somebody showing consistency over the whole year and winning it. If you look at Rory’s season, he’s won two Major championships, a World Golf Championship and our flagship event, the BMW PGA championship, which is a phenomenal year.

“If you put that up in somebody’s career, those four tournaments, that would be a good career. He’s won that in six months basically . . . I have no problem with it being over before the final event, especially this year with what Rory has done,” said Westwood.

So, the bottom line, and the general consensus in the locker room, is that the European Tour – in the throes of change with chief executive George O’Grady’s decision to step away from the helm – doesn’t need to ape the PGA Tour in the United States who have chopped and changed their FedEx Cup playoffs to give more and more weight to the season-ending Tour Championship.

“If you just copy the other guy, you’re always going to be behind him,” argued Garcia, while Westwood observed: “I think the European Tour needs its own identity and to have its own format at the end of the year.”

Competitive throughout


Colin Montgomerie

, a winner of eight orders of merit, is all for some tweaking so that “the

Race to Dubai

means something at the end of the day. The guy’s played great,” said Monty of McIlroy, “don’t get me wrong there, but it would good to have that bonus, that the Race to Dubai be competitive throughout the whole series.”

As it is, the Turkish Airlines Open – in only its second year and won last season by Frenchman Victor Dubuisson – has attracted a strong field, even if McIlroy is an absentee with the world number one only scheduled to play in the final event of the 'Final Series', next week's DP World Tour Championship.

Theoretically, McIlroy can still be caught by one of three players: Jamie Donaldson, Garcia and Marcel Siem. For that to happen, one of that trio must win back-to-back tournaments this week in Turkey and next week in the UAE and, even then, rely on assistance from McIlroy. Pigs could more likely fly.

There are eight members of Europe's winning Ryder Cup team in the field – Garcia, Westwood, Dubuisson, Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Jamie Donaldson, Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter – here on a course designed by Montgomerie, who is playing in his 600th event on the European Tour.

Darren Clarke, considered the hot favourite to succeed Paul McGinley as captain for the 2016 Ryder Cup in Hazeltine, is one of three Irishmen in the field alongside Shane Lowry and Michael Hoey.

Westwood, for one, is firmly in the Clarke camp.

“I backed Darren last time and Paul got it; and I was wrong, Paul was a great captain. I’d like to see Darren get it next time around and for him to sit down with Paul and let Paul shoot a few ideas at him and feed off that momentum that Paul really built up as the captain.”

Penultimate event

If it is evident that the afterglow of the Ryder Cup continues to burn for a number of players, it is also plain that this week’s tournament – the penultimate event of the European Tour season – is one that has its own attractions. And for Garcia, even if it seems a forlorn ambition, there is a still what he calls “a little chance” of catching McIlroy and topping the order of merit.

“We’ll try until it’s over,” said Garcia.

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