Friday 19 January 2018

Stenson has keys to Euro kingdom within reach

Rory McIlroy practices putting before the start of the DP World Tour Championship. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy practices putting before the start of the DP World Tour Championship. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Henrik Stenson could audition for a role as kingmaker and kingslayer in the 'Game of Thrones' that is up for grabs on the European Tour.

Stenson looks to cap a memorable year by dethroning Europe's number one, Rory McIlroy, in the DP World Tour championship in Dubai, and he also has a big say in the naming of the next Ryder Cup captain.

The Swede, who won the Open Championship in spectacular style at Royal Troon, is just waiting for the call to add his input into the select committee who will choose a successor to Darren Clarke for the 2018 Ryder Cup in France.

"I'll be the representative from the Tournament Committee together with the previous three captains and Keith (Pelley). Yeah, we'll have a discussion when they feel the time is right, and I'll be available and give my input," said Stenson.

The committee line-up is Stenson, Clarke (2016), Paul McGinley (2014), and Jose Maria Olazabal (2012) plus the European Tour CEO Pelley.

It's a small group, and right now Thomas Bjorn, three times a Ryder Cup player and four times a vice-captain, including at Hazeltine, looks to be the front-runner.

Pádraig Harrington, who also tees it up in Dubai, has said he is not interested in chasing the captaincy for 2018 as he wants to focus on playing at the highest level.

Lee Westwood is unlikely to press for the job. Miguel Angel Jimenez has not been part of the conversation, so Bjorn is the bookies' favourite.

Talking of bookies' favourites, Rory McIlroy at 3/1, is tipped to retain his DP World Tour Championship title, with Stenson next best for the tournament at 6/1 on the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.

Both players have more than just a big tournament victory on the line.

McIlroy's quest to regain the world number one spot rests on his winning this week, while Stenson's main goal is to replace McIlroy as Europe's number one.

"Yeah, it would be one of my finest achievements," Stenson said. "It was pretty sweet to be here as Europe's number one in '13, and I don't think it would be any less sweet being here as Europe's number one in '16 with the season that I've had, and winning The Open and some other fine performances throughout the year."

FedEx Cup champion McIlroy is fourth in the rankings behind Stenson, Danny Willett and Alex Noren.

"Yes, mathematically I can win, (the Race to Dubai), but it's not going to happen. I wouldn't hold my breath. I think the three guys that are ahead of me are playing very good golf, especially the two Swedes, Henrik and Alex.

"Alex with what he's done over the past few weeks; Henrik has had a fantastic year, and so has Danny, obviously.

"I don't expect those guys to play badly this week. I'm just concentrating on trying to win the golf tournament and if I can do that, I'll be very happy," said McIlroy.

Shane Lowry is the third Irishman in the field in Dubai.

Meanwhile, Seamus Power plays the RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort in Georgia where Kevin Kisner is the defending champion.

  • DP World Tour Championship, Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.0am
  • RSM Classic, Live, Sky Sports 4, 6.30pm

Hoey stays in hunt

Michael Hoey needs to jump from tied-39th place into the top 25 who will earn their Tour card at the end of play today in the Q-School finals at PGA Catalunya in Girona, Spain.

A 69 yesterday for a three-under par, five-round total of 353, gives Hoey a chance to regain the playing rights  he lost in the season just ended.

The gap to the magic 25 mark is only two shots, so today it’s make or break for the Galgorm Castle player.

Waterford’s Gary Hurley has a big challenge after 72 yesterday left him joint 59th on level par.

Former European Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari leads the field on 14-under. His five-under-par 67 gives him a three-shot lead over closest challenger Nathan Kinsey of England.

“A three-shot lead is a very good one to have going into the final round, and it would be very nice to end the week on a high,” said Molinari

Irish Independent

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