Shane Lowry faces new challenge as Race to Dubai enters final stretch
Bernd Wiesberger’s three victories catapult him into pole position in order of merit
Shane Lowry missed the cut at the Italian Open at Olgiata Golf Club in Rome. Photograph: Tullio M Puglia/Getty Images
If, for long parts of the season, it was a case of Shane Lowry keeping an eye on Jon Rahm and Rahm keeping an eye on Lowry in the quest to top the European Tour order of merit, all has changed. And changed utterly. For Bernd Wiesberger has moved into a position to usurp both of those longtime frontrunners.
As the Race to Dubai enters the final stretch of tournaments, the Austrian has taken pole position. Ranked as low as 378th in the world back in May, Wiesberger has had a turnabout in form that has now seen him claim three titles, adding the Italian Open to his Made in Denmark and Scottish Open successes to bring him up to 22nd in the updated world rankings.
There is just this week’s French Open and next week’s Portugal Masters remaining in the regular season, before the endgame takes in a WGC tournament (the HSBC Champions in Shanghai) and finishes with a run of three successive Rolex Series events (the Turkish Airlines Open, the Nedbank and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai). However, the sheer scale of the purses on offer in that concluding run still makes it all to play for.
Wiesberger’s focus on finishing the job is obvious from a schedule, one “set in stone” as he put it, that will see him take a two-week break (missing France and Portugal) before launching into a four-week straight itinerary that takes in the four big money tournaments to finish.
“I think we’ve tapered it really well,” said Wiesberger of how he mapped out his campaign this season. “I can’t ask for more than being in a position to play for the Race to Dubai title at the end of the year. I embrace the challenge. I will definitely have a good prep for the last four weeks, which are important . . . everything can shift around still. I’m feeling very comfortable in these situations, at the big events. I’ve played the Rolex Series events really well this year. Just important weeks to come, I think we’re going to put ourselves hopefully in position to be successful with those.”
Lowry’s missed cut in Rome was his first since failing to survive into the weekend at the US Masters back in April and, although down to number three in the updated order of merit, the Offaly man remains very much in contention. “Ultimately, it’s just going to matter who is number one at the end of November,” said Lowry, who returns to action in the Zozo Championship in Japan (which only counts on the PGA Tour, not in the Race to Dubai) next week, and then moves on to the HSBC in China.
For the two Irish men competing in this week’s French Open at Le Golf National outside Paris, thoughts are far removed from topping the Race to Dubai. Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan are both engaged in battles to retain their full tour cards: Dunne is 116th on the rankings, Moynihan 162nd. The leading 110 players after next week’s Portugal Masters earn their tour cards for next season.
In stark contrast to Wiesberger’s form since triumphing in Denmark back in May, Dunne’s form since a tied-fourth finish there behind the Austrian has gone south in missing 10 of 12 cuts. Dunne and Moynihan are in the field for both tournaments, so at least still have it in their own hands to perform salvage missions.