Saturday 25 January 2020

McDowell battles on after 'row with a door'

William S Callahan

GRAEME McDOWELL slammed his hotel room door on his right hand at Mission Hills, while Peter Hanson conceded that Rory McIlroy effectively has shut out his rivals in the Race to Dubai.

After finishing one stroke ahead of Ulster's World No 1 in Shanghai last Sunday, Hanson is McIlroy's closest rival at the top of the European Money List, yet the Swede holds out little hope of catching the 23-year-old before season's end.

As Hanson unfurled the white flag, Shane Lowry splendidly fought his way into contention at the HSBC World Championship of Golf. A satisfying second-round 68 placed Clara's favourite son in a tie for fourth with Jason Dufner on 10-under, six shy of runaway leader Louis Oosthuizen.


Revealingly, Hanson felt unable earlier this week to give Tour chief executive George O'Grady a clear answer when asked if he would stay on in Asia for next week's Singapore Open or the forthcoming Hong Kong Open in an effort to make a real fight of the Race to Dubai.

O'Grady is keen for the title to remain at issue right up to the season finale, the DP World Championship, to be played in the Emirate in three weeks' time.

Yet, after spending the past three weeks competing in the Far East, Hanson is anxious to return to his young family in Florida. Effectively, this would ensure the European race is run.

McIlroy has been in such hot form since wrapping up his second Major in record-breaking style at August's PGA, it would take a miracle for anyone to prevent him emulating Luke Donald's historic feat of finishing first in the US and European money lists in the same year.

The Holywood star is not playing this week. He took time off to watch girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in the WTA Tournament of Champions in Bulgaria before returning to the action-packed final three weeks of his season.

Hanson's prospects of clinching the victory at Mission Hills which would propel him past McIlroy to the top of the Order of Merit receded yesterday as a second-round 71 left him tied 12th on seven-under, nine behind Oosthuizen.

Confirming the Tour chief had encouraged him to play Singapore, Hanson said: "I told George I wanted to wait until Sunday just to see if I'm in contention here or not, but the way Rory's been playing it's going to be very hard to catch him."

According to Bernie McGuire on '', Hanson went on: "I also spoke to Justin Rose and we agree that we will need to do something stupid just to pass Rory."

Currently third in the money list, Rose's prospects of securing the victory he needs at Mission Hills to maintain his chances of finishing No 1 in Europe for the second time virtually expired as a second-round 70 dropped the Englishman into a share of 30th.

Oosthuizen purred five clear of fellow South African Ernie Els and Australian Adam Scott with yesterday's second-round 63. Tellingly, the leader played the five par-fives on the Olazabal Course in 11-under, including nine birdies and an eagle, over the opening 36 holes.

Even if the 2010 British Open champion scoops the €921,376 first prize tomorrow, he'll still trail McIlroy by €598,516 in the Order of Merit.

Oosthuizen equalled his own course record yesterday, an effort then matched by Els, who clearly has recovered from the ankle injury which ruled him out of last week's PGA Grand Slam of Golf, won by Padraig Harrington.

Lowry, his confidence soaring after his Portugal Masters triumph, eased within reach of a place in the elite top 50 of the world rankings with his impressive effort over the opening 36 holes in Shenzhen. "I played lovely again," said Lowry (25), who once again showed phenomenal 'feel' around the greens.

Yet he was "a bit disappointed not to score better on my back nine".

"I gave myself plenty of chances, so four-under probably was the worst I could have shot. Yet I holed a nice 20-footer for birdie at the last, so the patience paid off well," said Lowry, who is scheduled to play with Jason Dufner and Phil Mickelson early today.

Fears that McDowell's season would be ended prematurely by the hand injury he sustained in "an argument with a door" were dispelled when an X-ray revealed no broken bones.

With his heavily bruised hand strapped, G-Mac plainly was in pain. A 75 left him out of the running on two-over, but the injury responded well to post-round treatment and he tweeted: "I should be okay for tomorrow."

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