Friday 20 September 2019

McIlroy aiming to take unexpected chance to keep title

The battle to retain his overall Race To Dubai title is a great incentive for Rory McIlroy to end an the season on a high
The battle to retain his overall Race To Dubai title is a great incentive for Rory McIlroy to end an the season on a high

Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy is the man they all want to beat in the DP World Tour Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai this weekend.

The battle to retain his overall Race To Dubai title offers a terrific incentive for McIlroy to end an injury-disrupted season on a high.

Should he succeed and hold off the predators who want to knock him off his perch, the 26-year-old world number three will provide the perfect end to a year that has quietly become very successful for Irish golf.

Perhaps we take for granted some of the quality our top players offer, but it is worth noting that in the history of the PGA Tour, never before have we had four Irish winners Stateside in the same year.

Graeme McDowell's timely and impressive success in the OHL Mayakoba Classic on Monday was preceded by victories for Shane Lowry (WGC-Bridgestone Invitational), McIlroy (WGC-Cadillac Matchplay and Wells Fargo Championship), and Padraig Harrington (Honda Classic).

Lowry still has an outside chance of toppling McIlroy in Dubai, starting tomorrow.

If he wins the tournament, the Offaly man would need McIlroy and Danny Willett, the number two in the rankings, to finish third or lower.

If he came second on his own, and McIlroy and Willett were ninth or worse, then Lowry would also achieve one of his main goals.

The problem is that the man in possession will not easily give up his prized title.

"I didn't quite think I would be in this position, and coming into this event, especially after taking the week off last week, but a few of the guys didn't capitalise on that in China thankfully, and now I find myself in a position where it's totally in my hands. If I go out and win the tournament, I win the overall thing no matter what anybody else does, and that's a nice position to be in," said McIlroy.

Apart from Willett and Lowry, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, and rookie Ben An can win the Race to Dubai depending on the breakdown of results.

Meanwhile, McDowell will play in the RSM Classic which tees off in Sea Island, Georgia tomorrow.

All the pressure is off and McDowell has the chance to add to his FedEx Cup points before taking a break.

European Tour chief Keith Pelley had good news for his members yesterday - the Tour will be aggressive in increasing prize purses for all levels of players, and in seeking more playing opportunities.

Pelley also targeted slow play which has long been viewed as a blight on the game.

"Slow play is a critical part of our game and we will address it," he said.


As expected, membership requirements have been eased, which should help the likes of McDowell and Paul Casey who live in the USA and intend to play the majority of their golf on the lucrative PGA Tour.

"We have made a decision to move from 13 to five, excluding the four majors and the four World Golf Championships.

"So our players now have to play in five events, as opposed to 13. But really, it just simply excludes the WGCs and the majors.

"This, I believe, will allow our players to schedule more efficiently at the beginning of the year, so they know exactly how they are going to maintain their Tour membership," said Pelley.

The chief executive also said he was excited about the EurAsia Cup to take place in Kuala Lumpur in January.

This is a Ryder Cup-style event. Darren Clarke captains Europe against Asia, which should help him in his Ryder Cup role.

Irish Independent

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