Vital world ranking points on offer for Lowry and Dunne in Dubai
Fleetwood in driving seat in order of merit but Rose and Garcia remain in contention
Paul Dunne is currently a career best 77th in the world. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty
Only time will tell how much shifting of the sands takes place in the desert this week where the €6.8 million DP World Tour Championship brings a highly lucrative close to the European Tour season, but – technically – three players have more to play for than most: Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia are the only ones with the chance to finish the season top of the order of merit.
Yet, for Paul Dunne and Shane Lowry, the two Irishmen in the limited 60-man field where the financial rewards are great, the greater incentive could prove to be the world ranking points available, especially in their aims to make it into the world’s top-50 by the end of the year when US Masters invitations will be dispensed.
Both Dunne and Lowry have made upward trends in the world rankings in recent weeks, with Dunne up to a career best 77th whilst Lowry has arrested his slip-sliding and improved four spots up to 85th in the latest rankings: there are a projected 50 points on offer to the winner of the DP World, the last of the 48 counting events in the season-long Race to Dubai.
This is the fourth of a five-week straight stint on the road for Dunne, who will finish his season’s work at next week’s Hong Kong Open. In Lowry’s case, it will be the last tournament of the European Tour season but he plans one further foray onto the PGA Tour where he will team-up with Graeme McDowell in the QBE Shootout in Naples, Florida, next month.
Dunne – who is currently 15th in the R2D rankings – could also yet feature in the bonus pool which will be awarded to the top-10 on the order of merit. Whoever tops the final order of merit will get a bonus of $1.25 million with incremental decreases down to 10th, which will earn a bonus of $250,000. Any player down to 45th in the rankings (Chris Wood) could still manage to break into bonus pool territory.
However, Fleetwood, the man in the driving seat, Rose and Garcia are the only three capable of coming out on top of the order of merit: the mathematics are simple enough for Fleetwood, who must better or equal Rose’s finishing position to stay ahead in the race. Alternatively, as long as Rose doesn’t finish in the top-five or Garcia win, then Fleetwood would still earn the title.
For Rose (256,737 points behind), as long as Fleetwood doesn’t win, then a solo second place finish would be sufficient to claim a second order of merit although he could actually finish in solo fifth and still overtake his fellow Englishman. Garcia would need to win and for Fleetwood to finish outside the top-20 and Rose outside the top-four for the Masters champion to have any chance.
“As much as it depends on what they do, it is in my hands,” said Fleetwood, adding: “I can take it out of everybody’s hands, but we’ll see . . . . it’s going to be a new experience. It’s going to be a great experience; playing in the Race to Dubai is very, very special and it’s something that actually very few people get the chance to do. I’m very sort of proud of the year overall. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully I can come back on Sunday and I’ve won both, I’ve won the tournament and the Race to Dubai. That would be great, wouldn’t it?”
With Rory McIlroy taking a break to recover from his rib injury, and Henrik Stenson a more recent casualty to a similar injury after his “Superman” gimmick prior to the HSBC Champions, the beneficiaries proved to be Paul Waring (61st in the rankings) and Ian Poulter (62nd).
In announcing his withdrawal on social media, Stenson, who also missed the Nedbank, said: “Sorry to say that I will miss the DP World Tour Championship due to my rib injury. I hope to be back soon to battle it out with the boys.”
Race to Dubai bonus pool