McIlroy can only watch as Willett targets Dubai No 1 spot
World number three Rory McIlroy would have been an interested spectator as the third event of the European Tour's Final Series got under way in China during the early hours of this morning.
McIlroy leads England's Danny Willett by just 74,213 points as he looks to win the Race to Dubai for the third time in four years, but is not playing in the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren.
Willett can claim top spot heading into the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai by finishing 28th or better in the 78-man field in Shanghai, while Shane Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose need to finish second or better and Branden Grace requires a win.
"If we can go to Dubai somewhere close or in front, or hopefully in front by a good way, it will make it really good," said Willett, who carded a brilliant final round of 62 in the WGC-HSBC Champions last Sunday to reduce his deficit to McIlroy by more than 320,000 points.
"I'm just going to try and do the same as last week, knuckle down and work hard and hopefully can have another good week this week."
Willett won the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the start of the season and the Omega European Masters in July, a week after finishing in a tie for sixth in the British Open at St Andrews.
The 28-year-old from Sheffield admits his form dipped slightly after finishing third in the Italian Open but he has bounced back with a share of 11th in the Turkish Airlines Open and a tie for third at Sheshan International on Sunday.
"I had a bit of a lull before that," the World No 22 said. "I was working on a few things and it took a little bit longer to bed in, but hopefully it's on the way back up now to where we've been and I can keep moving forward."
Meanwhile, World number one Jordan Spieth will play his first regular European Tour event in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship next year.
Spieth, who won the Masters, US Open, Tour Championship and FedEx Cup in 2015, is part of a strong field at Abu Dhabi Golf Club from January 21-24 which also features McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson.
"I am looking forward to coming to Abu Dhabi, especially after Rickie told me about what a fantastic event it is," Spieth said.
McIlroy, who has finished runner-up in the competition four times in the last five years, said: "Abu Dhabi always brings an outstanding player field and, with Jordan and Rickie competing in January, this will a superb test for me to start off the 2016 season."