Monday 19 November 2018

McIlroy keen to put pressure on Molinari

Rory McIlroy plays a shot during the pro- am prior to the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player CC in Sun City, South Africa. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy plays a shot during the pro- am prior to the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player CC in Sun City, South Africa. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy knows he must win the Nedbank Golf Challenge if he's to heap the pressure on Race to Dubai leader Francesco Molinari heading into next week's final counting DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

The Co Down man returns to Sun City since for the first time since he withdrew with a viral infection at halfway nine years ago, seeking his first win since March and the chance to keep his slim hopes of fourth Race to Dubai crown alive.

"I have to play really well this week to give myself a chance, even half a chance going into next week, and that's what I'm going to try and do," said McIlroy, who is eighth in the Race to Dubai, almost two million points behind Molinari.

"I'm going to need some great golf over the next two weeks, but we'll see what happens this week."

Even back-to-back victories would leave McIlroy short should Molinari finish second on his own or tied with one other at next week's season-ending event in the desert.

McIlroy hasn't won since he spectacularly claimed the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill seven months ago but knows that a win this week would put him in the final group with Molinari next week and boost his chances of putting the Open champion under serious pressure

"My thing is I'm coming here with the goal, if I can get into that final group on Thursday with Frankie next week, that would be a good start," McIlroy said, conscious that he's played in six final groups this year without success.

"I probably let a few slip through my fingers in terms of tournaments won - Dubai earlier this year, Wentworth a little bit, the Masters.

"There's a few I feel like I could have challenged a bit more for. Overall, it's been a consistent year.

"It wouldn't have been the year that I would have envisioned at the start, but you're not going to have those years every single year that you play."

Only top 60 in the Race to Dubai on Sunday night qualify for Dubai, but 88th-ranked Pádraig Harrington now has a chance to make it after some late withdrawals meant he got into Sun City field on merit and no longer needed his sponsor's invitation.

While his prize money will now count towards the Race to Dubai, he will need a top-seven finish at worst to make the top 60.

As for 41st-ranked Shane Lowry and 53rd ranked Paul Dunne, they're keen to close the gap on the top-30 in the final standings who will be exempt for The Open at Royal Portrush next year.

Meanwhile, West Waterford's Seamus Power and former winner Graeme McDowell tee it up in the PGA Tour's Mayakoba Golf Classic at El Cameleon in Mexico.

Mayakoba Golf Classic, Live, Sky Sports, 6.0pm

Nedbank Golf Challenge, Live, Sky Sports, 8.0am

Irish Independent

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