The upward trending is more than a box-ticking exercise for Séamus Power's continued rise – up to a career-best 89th in the world rankings and to 36th in the updated PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings – and provides further proof that the Waterford player's game has elevated to a new level.
With the security of a two-year exemption following his breakthrough win in the Barbasol Championship back in July, Power’s strong start to the wraparound 2021/’22 season – 21st, 12th and 11th in his last three starts – has proved how important that comfort blanket of a safe tour card can mean.
Says Power: “The game is in a good spot. It’s nice to have two decent finishes in a row, it’s encouraging,”
He continues his late-year schedule at this week's Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course, where Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell, aiming to bounce back after missed cuts in Mexico, are also in the field.
For Power, given his strong form, there is the continued incentive of a second tour win to add to that summer success in the Barbasol. Upward movement in the world rankings also has the potential to bring another factor into play, that of getting into the world's top-50 by year's end to secure a first invitation to the Masters at Augusta National.
Power’s rise in the world rankings through 2021 has been impressive, having started the year in 429th place. The win in the Barbasol was the big move he needed (jumping from 210th to 113th) and he moved into the world’s top-100 (in exactly 100th) for the first time with a tied-21st finish in the Shriner’s Children Open.
His tied-11th place finish in the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba, won so impressively by Viktor Hovland, then propelled him to 89th with the Houston Open and next week's RSM Classic (the final tournament of the year) on his schedule.
Lowry, meanwhile, will be aiming to show improved form at Houston before jetting back to the European Tour's finale, the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next week.
That tour championship will be confined to the leading 50 available players on the Race to Dubai rankings following this week’s penultimate event, the Aviv Dubai Championship which takes place on the Fire course in the emirates. The tour championship will take place on its sister course, the Earth.
As things stand Lowry and Rory McIlroy are the only Irish players certain to play in the megabucks season's finale, although Pádraig Harrington and Jonathan Caldwell – both playing in the Dubai Championship this week – visit the last-chance saloon in their respective bids to gate-crash the party.
Harrington's good showing in Portugal -–a tied-12th finish – had the impact of moving him up from 68th to 58th in the updated Race to Dubai rankings. "I think I need to get to about 51 [to get in]," admitted the Dubliner.
Still, the performance in Portugal was what he called “a positive week” in terms of his on-course performance.
“I showed some good signs. I’m definitely striking the ball better in practice; I’m not bringing that to the course. But there were some good signs. At times it was good. I certainly putted well. My wedge play could be a bit stronger, but it’s reasonably positive. But there’s definitely an improvement needed.”
On the line
Stephanie Meadow has her own number-crunching to do as she plays in the Pelican Championship at Belleair, Florida, on the LPGA Tour, with her full tour card for next season on the line.
Although handed the security of a sponsor’s invitation if needed, the Northern Irish woman got into the field for the last regular event of the LPGA Tour season on her own status. Meadow is 101st on the LPGA Tour order of merit, and needs to move into the top 100 following this week’s tournament to retain her full tour card.
Yet Meadow is back on a happy hunting ground: it was here last year that she produced her best result of the season, a tied-third place finish.
Leona Maguire is also in the field, but with a different dynamic at play. She is currently 16th in the CME Globe order of merit standings and so is assured of a place in next week's limited field tour championship, but is looking to move up the standings before that tournament finale.