G-Mac set for duel in Dubai
Graeme McDowell heads to this week's Race to Dubai final more determined than ever to deny rival Martin Kaymer the European No 1 title.
McDowell narrowed Kaymer's lead in the Race to just under €291,000 after finishing fifth behind Ryder Cup team-mate Ian Poulter in the Hong Kong Open.
The current US Open champion earned €46,446 after a final-round 68 secured a 19-under-par tally, three strokes behind Poulter.
Poulter has bumped Rory McIlroy out of the top 10 in the world rankings in capturing the Hong Kong title in his first appearance in the event.
He won by a stroke after a final round of 67 left him with a 22-under-par tally. It is Poulter's second win this year after capturing the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
"I felt calm all day and felt that if I kept going about my business, I'd make a few birdies and that would be enough to win, so it's very pleasing to do so," said Poulter.
Italy's Matteo Manassero, with Coleraine caddy Ryan McGuigan on the bag, recorded a blistering final-round 62 to finish tied with former Hong Kong Open winner Simon Dyson (65) on 21-under-par.
The 17-year-old Manassero, who was unable to place a bet at Wednesday night's race meeting at Happy Valley, and who could not purchase alcohol, has now earned €846,705 since turning pro in May.
Also, in moving to 29th on the money list he could easily wrap up a place in next year's British Open by finishing the season in the top 30.
McIlroy started with a bogey en route to 67 to finish sixth, one place behind McDowell on 18-under-par.
"I am driving the ball great, which is the key for next week, and I am playing well enough to win in Dubai," McDowell said. "Let's be honest, it's been a great year and anything that happens next week is a bonus.
"But I am going there to win it because if I win there's nothing he can do to deny me."
Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin recorded the lowest score of the round (61), and jumped to a tie for seventh place on 17-under-par.
"It was good to shoot 61 today but I could have contended all week but just didn't make anything earlier on," he said.
"It's just that I made a bunch of putts today, and it's a nice score to pack into the suitcase to take to Dubai.
"But I had two bogeys on the card, so I guess without those maybe I could have shot a 60 or maybe even the magical 59 -- but then, we've been playing preferred lies all week."
Damien McGrane signed off for a 63 that included driving the shortened par-four 10th green for eagle, and six birdies, to finish tied 11th on 15-under-par.
Darren Clarke recorded a 68 for a share of 19th place on 12-under-par while fellow Ulsterman Michael Hoey, who played alongside Maybin, signed for a 69 and a share of 25th on nine-under-par.
Peter Lawrie (67) was tied 47th on five-under and Paul McGinley (73) ended his 19th, and poorest year on tour tied last at three-over-par.
McGinley ended the season 124th on the money list but will retain full 2011 Tour membership given his top-40 all-time money-earning status.
Denmark's Mark Haastrup can count himself the unluckiest player on the 2010 Tour after being bumped two places to 118th and outside the top 117 who retain full membership.
Chilean Felipe Aguilar, who played the final round with McGinley, retained his 117th position by €4,507.
Irish players retaining full 2011 Tour membership are: McDowell, McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Clarke, Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie, Maybin, Shane Lowry, Michael Hoey and McGinley.
All but Lowry (62nd on the money list), Hoey (90th) and McGinley (124th) will contest this week's $US7.5m Dubai World Championship.
Those who forfeited 2010 Tour membership are Simon Thornton, officially 142nd on the money list, and Gary Murphy who was placed 240th.
And in a reflection of the strength of Irish golf, of the 60 players now heading to Dubai, 14 are English born, seven Irish, six Spanish, five South Africans, three Italians and then a mix of others.