Rory McIlroy still out in front in Race to Dubai

Chasing trio would require back-to-back wins to stop Irishman topping Order of Merit

 Graeme McDowell: finished third behind Bubba Watson at the  WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and has now moved up to 15th in the latest world rankings. Photo:   Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Graeme McDowell: finished third behind Bubba Watson at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and has now moved up to 15th in the latest world rankings. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

 

He’s still not back, not yet at any rate, although Rory McIlroy’s absence – missing out on the two big-money tournaments in China – doesn’t seem to have affected the world number one’s prospects of topping the European Tour Order of Merit.

Going into this week’s Turkish Airlines Open, with only the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to follow, the Northern Irishman still remains the man to catch and with only three players holding any prospect of doing so.

McIlroy isn’t playing in Turkey, and won’t resume tournament play until next week’s European Tour finale in the desert, but he still holds all the aces. Only three players retain any chance of ultimately catching McIlroy: Jamie Donaldson, Sergio Garcia and Marcel Siem; although it would take a rather extraordinary scenario for any one of them to manage the feat, requiring back-to-back wins in Turkey and Dubai.

This week’s penultimate tournament in the Race to Dubai is the Turkish Airlines Open with a purse of $7 million and enhanced points of 1,666,600 on offer to the winner. In effect, it would require any one of Donaldson, Garcia or Siem to win in Turkey to have any chance of overhauling McIlroy, but it would also mean repeating the feat next week and then other finishing positions also going their way in Dubai.

Both tournaments

Whichever way you look at it, it would seem a tall order for any of the chasers.

McIlroy is the top man and, given what he has achieved this year, winning two Majors, a WGC and the Tour’s own showpiece tournament, it would be in rather poor taste if anyone did actually leapfrog him.

Still, it all adds a little bit of spice to this week’s event in Turkey where the size of the purse makes it a valued tournament in its own right. There is no cut and, apart from the incentives for one of Messrs Donaldson, Garcia or Siem to win to keep alive any prospect, however faint, of catching McIlroy, there are other side issues for other players as this event will determine the top 60 on the moneylist who advance to Dubai.

Sponsor’s invites

Shane LowryMichael HoeyDarren Clarke

Lowry, for his part, is placed 15th on the Race to Dubai and must remain in the top-15 if he is to share any part of the $5 million bonus pool which will be divvied up after next week’s finale in the desert. The Offalyman will also find out on Thursday if he has earned an invite into the Nedbank Challenge at the end of the month. The top 10 available players off the Race to Dubai standings will get an invite into the field which is limited to 30 players.

Graeme McDowell’s third-place finish behind Bubba Watson in the HSBC Champions tournament in China moved the Ulsterman up two places, from 17th to 15th, in the latest world rankings. He also moved up to ninth on the Race to Dubai standings, but has opted to bypass Turkey in favour of a week’s break before returning to tournament duty in next week’s Tour Championship.

Although McDowell led after the first, second and third rounds of the HSBC in China, he admitted to “battling” his golf swing for much of the tournament. “The game wasn’t good enough to compete in the end . . . . lots of positives to take away, to be competing, up there in the business end not playing my best, that’s always good,” acknowledged McDowell, who intends to play next week’s European Tour finale in Dubai and then close out his year’s work by playing in the Tiger Woods-hosted World Challenge in Florida next month.

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