Race on for second as Rory McIlroy tops the lot

With $5 million in the bonus pot, there is still plenty to play for for Lowry, Hoey and McDowell

Rory McIlroy  in action during the pro-am event prior to the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates  in Dubai. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty

Rory McIlroy in action during the pro-am event prior to the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty

 

Ian Poulter will look to salvage his season with a first victory for two years in the DP World Tour Championship, a win which would be worth almost as much in lost pride as money.

Twelve months ago, Poulter arrived in Dubai having bet Henrik Stenson $100 that he could catch the Swede at the top of the Race to Dubai, despite facing a hefty deficit.

The loser also had to act as the winner’s drinks waiter on a night out and it was Stenson who ended up on top after beating Poulter into second place at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Rory McIlroy has already secured the 2014 Race to Dubai title with a week to spare following his four wins – including two major championships – but Poulter can still climb from 13th into the second place currently occupied by Stenson with a first win since the HSBC Champions in November 2012.

Number two

“There’s still a big bonus for number two and that would upset the number two right now,” joked Poulter, who would claim $1.2 million by winning the tournament and an extra $800,000 from the Race to Dubai bonus pool for finishing second behind McIlroy.

“I’m still chasing Mr Stenson down like I was chasing him last year. We haven’t had a side wager because there’s not quite the same takedown, but I was 64th two weeks ago so to go sixth, second and win this week would move me nicely up.”

Poulter would already have been further up if not for squandering a six-shot lead at the halfway stage of last week’s Turkish Airlines Open, the Ryder Cup star struggling to a third round of 75 and eventually missing from six feet for a birdie on the 72nd hole to force a play-off with Brooks Koepka.

“I was really annoyed,” Poulter admitted. “Saturday was a bad day. It was a little stop-start from Friday afternoon through Saturday. There was a lot of going on. There was a lot of talk: ‘Are we going to get it done on Saturday? Is the storm going to pass?’ There’s electricity, what’s happening?’

“So I probably got way too wrapped up in all of that nonsense and not focusing on the job at hand. I’m very disappointed but I’m over it. I’m moving on to this week”, Poulter said.

After missing that crucial putt on Sunday, and a few more on the back nine, Poulter received a message on Twitter from former world number one Greg Norman, who said he had seen what was going wrong with the Englishman’s putting stroke.

Poulter quickly responded and spoke to Norman on Tuesday night, but was wary about revealing what was said or instantly making changes.

“I know Greg really well and it was really nice of him to reach out,” Poulter added. “He noticed a couple of things but I’d like to review the coverage just to see if his observations were my observations as well.

Good inroads

“I’ve worked hard on my putting the last couple of weeks and I feel like I’ve made good inroads. Obviously a couple of putts have slipped past, but I’d like to try and review them myself, as well as obviously having a great opinion from Greg and I would respect his opinion.

“I’m walking a fine line of do I mess and try something (different)? So it would be unfair to say what we discussed on the telephone and then see what happens this week. I will let you know Sunday night.”

Stenson’s win 12 months ago ensured he became the first man to win the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same year and although the 38-year-old has unsurprisingly been unable to reproduce such success, he has the added incentive of trying to retain a title for the first time in his career this week.

McIlroy is one of four Irish playing this week, along with Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry and Michael Hoey. McDowell last played in the HSBC where he led through the first three rounds only to lose out to Bubba Watson, whilst Lowry and Hoey both played in Turkey.

Lowry has slipped to 17th in the Race to Dubai standings, and must get back into the top- 15 if he is to claim some of the $5 million bonus pool. McIlroy, as winner of the order of merit, is guaranteed the top bonus of $1.25 million. However, the pool extends to 15th place, for which there is $100,000.

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