Rory McIlroy’s tied-fourth finish at the weekend’s WGC-HSBC Champions event at Sheshan International Golf Club helped prolong The Race to Dubai and set up an exciting finish to the 2011 season on the European Tour.
With Luke Donald sitting out the event as his wife prepares to give birth to their second child, McIlroy needed a strong performance if he was to ensure he had a chance at finishing on the top of the Race to Dubai standings.
And the US Open champion delivered with a top-five finish that puts him within range of the world number one, following a superb final round 69 that included three birdies in his final four holes. That finish moved McIlroy to third in the Race to Dubai standings, some €1.1million behind Donald.
The new world number two – his T4 at Sheshan also moved him to 2nd on the lastest Official Golf World Rankings – has confirmed his attendance at the upcoming UBS Hong Kong Open, leaving McIlroy with a tough order to overtake Donald – but one which the Irishman will be looking forward to nonetheless.
For McIlroy the task is clear; win in both Hong Kong and Dubai, and hope Donald finishes outside the top-12 in Dubai. If McIlroy fails then Donald will become the first golfer to top the Money List on both the European Tour and the PGA Tour at the same time.
McIlroy’s form in both events is impressive, so it is by no means a forlorn hope. McIlroy has finished 2-2-6 in the past three years in Hong Kong, and 3-5 in Dubai. His past four competitive outings have yielded finishes of 3-3-2-4, while he also captured the non-Tour Shanghai Masters.
Sheshan winner, Germany’s Martin Kaymer could also have a say in the final destination of the top honours, and the German is currently in second place in the standings. Kaymer is just over €1million behind Donald, but the winner’s purse at Dubai would not be enough for him to overtake the world number one.
To win, Kaymer would have to play an additional event on the European Tour, which looks unlikely, given his own playing schedule and so it looks a straight battle now between the top two players in the world with fourth-placed Charl Schwartzel – the current US Masters champion – and fifth-placed Lee Westwood too far back to have any bearing on the outcome.
Who do you think will win? Can Rory pull off the impossible and overturn Luke? Or has Donald got the Race To Dubai in safe-keeping after his brilliant season?