Rory McIlroy takes hope as Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson struggle in Race to Dubai
The Race to Dubai is in danger of turning into a slog for not only Danny Willett but also Henrik Stenson. The first two in the standings both turned in mediocre displays in the second round of the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City in South Africa on Friday and, in the process, offered hope to Rory McIlroy.
Stenson went out only a shot off the lead but a 74 saw him slip to one under and into a tie for 17th, seven off the pace. If the Swede wins and Willett finishes outside the top 10, Stenson would lift his second Harry Vardon Trophy in four years a week early.
Yet while the Englishman was miserably fulfilling his side of the bargain – his 74 took him to five-over and into a tie for 54th in the 78-man field – Stenson could only partially recover from a poor start which left him three over for the day through five holes.
McIlroy would have been an interested observer at home in Northern Ireland. If Stenson does not finish in the top seven, he will have a mathematical chance at next week’s finale in Dubai. However the world No 2 might have a countryman of Stenson’s to pass as well. Alex Noren assumed the halfway advantage on eight-under, courtesy of a 67, and is two clear of a group in second including Bristol’s Chris Wood and the former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
If Noren was to lift his fourth title of the season he could move on to the tail of Willett and have Stenson in his sights. Yet the 34-year-old is taking nothing for granted. “I know how tricky this game is, and I’m just trying to improve every day, every week, and this week, you’ve got to work on tricky grass around the greens,” he said. “You’ve got to be on your toes, so that’s why maybe I’m not looking too cheerful.”