Race poised for dramatic climax in Dubai

12/5/2011 3:05:34 PM
Luke Donald  (Getty Images)
Luke Donald (Getty Images)

It is billed as The Greatest Show on Earth and ultimately it will come down to the battle between the two best players in the world as Rory McIlroy attempts to topple Luke Donald and become the European Number One at the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World this week.

The Race to Dubai will reach a dramatic climax on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates after McIlroy kept alive his hopes of finishing as the top player in Europe with a stunning win at the UBS Hong Kong Open last weekend.

The Northern Irishman still needs to win the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World this week, while also hoping that Donald finishes outside the top nine, if he is to perform what would be one of the great comebacks in European golf by winning The Race to Dubai.

Indeed, even if McIlroy were to emerge victorious this week and Donald finished tied ninth with one other player, the Englishman would still win the by a mere €5.

The 33 year old, however, has only finished outside the top nine three times on The European Tour this year, one of those coming at the Bankia Madrid Masters, where he finished tied 11th.

Despite McIlroy’s heroics in Hong Kong, Donald is still confident of claiming his first Race to Dubai title and in the process, making history as the first player to finish top of the Rankings on both The European Tour and the US PGA Tour in the same season.  

“I didn’t expect anything less from Rory,” said the World Number One. “I knew he’d put the pressure on me and make it tough going, but I’ve still got a nice comfortable lead.

“He’s going to have to go out and win this week and beat a high quality field, and I think the advantage is still with me. I’m looking forward to it.”

World Number Two McIlroy, meanwhile, is just happy to be going into the week in Dubai, where a $7.5 million prize fund is on offer as well as a $7.5 million bonus pool for The Race to Dubai’s final top 15, with something to play for.

“That was one of the goals going out (on the final day in Hong Kong), to win the tournament and keep myself in with a shout in Dubai,” said the 22 year old.

“That's very dependent on what Luke does because he's got such a big lead but if I can somehow get myself into contention next week, you never know.”

With the World’s top four players all present at Jumeirah Golf Estates, it will be by no means a certainty for the US Open Champion.

Lee Westwood is another man entering the final week of The European Tour 2011 International Schedule on a rich vein of form having retained the Nedbank Golf Challenge thanks to a superb show of ball-striking in South Africa, where he broke the course record with a 62 on Saturday.

The 38 year old also has form on the Earth Course, having won the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World in 2009 on the way to claiming the inaugural Race to Dubai title, while he finished in a tie for third place last year.

Last year’s Race to Dubai Champion Martin Kaymer cannot catch Donald at the top, but he will have his eyes on second place in The Race to Dubai as he currently sits in third position, €236,342 behind McIlroy.

Robert Karlsson, winner of last year’s Dubai World Championship presented by DP World, is also in the field, as is Masters Tournament Champion Charl Schwartzel and Open Champion Darren Clarke.

Every one of the players outside the top 15 going into this week’s tournament is still in with a chance to break into the cut-off point and claim a portion of the $7.5 million bonus pool, so there is everything to play for in Dubai in what is sure to be a thrilling finale.