Sunday 27 May 2018

Irish duo eye Race to Dubai finale and a ticket to the Masters

Paul Dunne is congratulated by Shane Lowry
Paul Dunne is congratulated by Shane Lowry
Strong putting: Paul Dunne. Photo: AP

William S Callahan

The top three in the Race to Dubai have their calculators at the ready but Paul Dunne and Shane Lowry know a win in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship would see them tick a huge item off their wish lists and secure Masters invitations.

While Dunne, 15th in the rankings after a stellar season, is within a top-three finish of securing a slice of the $10 million (€8.5m) bonus pool cash, like Lowry he will have his eyes on huge world ranking points on offer for the winner.

The Greystones man (24) moved up to a career high of 77th in the world on Monday and with Lowry in form and back up to 85th this week, both know that a win would put them in position to finish the year inside the top 50 and start making arrangements for Augusta National in April.

While he hasn't hit the same heights of his British Masters victory in October, Dunne showed with a closing 66 in the Nedbank Golf Challenge last Sunday that he is not far from his best heading to a course where perfect greens may suit a player who is in the top four in all of the European Tour putting statistics this year.

It's the Wicklow man's debut in the Dubai finale but it's familiar territory for Lowry, who has twice finished in the top 10 in his five previous appearances at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

After three top-12 finishes on the spin, the Offaly man will be in the mood to gatecrash the season-ending party and top the elite, 60-man field chasing a juicy €6.8m prize fund.

It's his last chance to turn a largely forgettable year into a memorable one but all eyes will be on the three men battling for the Race to Dubai title.

England's Tommy Fleetwood is in the driving seat with Justin Rose, the 2007 Order of Merit winner, and Masters champion Sergio Garcia the only men who can deny him.

The 26-year-old is just 256,737 points ahead of 2013 US Open and reigning Olympic champion Rose, who closed the gap with back-to-back wins in the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open.

Rose's chase for the European No 1 crown brings back memories of Valderrama in 2007 when money list leader Ernie Els sat out the final event due to a scheduling clash.

"It's actually a very similar situation to 2007 for me," said Rose, who out-gunned Padraig Harrington for the money title by winning in Spain that week.

"I think mathematically, at Valderrama in 2007, I could have maybe finished second or third, but went ahead and won the tournament. It's probably something fairly similar this week.

"But (at the) end of the day, for me it's about winning the Race to Dubai, and I have to contend in this tournament one way or another.

"I need to finish towards the top end of the leaderboard, and if you're going to finish at the top end of the leaderboard, you may as well focus on trying to win the tournament."

Garcia needs to win and have other results to go his way if he's to become the first Spaniard to top the money list since Seve Ballesteros in 1991.

Fleetwood's goal is to at least match Rose or hope that his compatriot doesn't finish in the top five and that Garcia doesn't win.

He'd also like to prove a few doubters wrong.

"I remember seeing a tweet somewhere, and somebody laughed at the thought of me winning The Race to Dubai, so that motivated me a bit more," he said yesterday.

"Somebody had put, 'Who do you think will win?', and I wasn't included. (Putting coach) Phil Kenyon said, 'What about the current leader?' and somebody laughed.

"Little things like that always motivate you a little bit, but I don't remember who it was."

DP World Tour Championship, Live, Sky Sports Golf, 8.0

Irish Independent

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