Ian Poulter hungry for victory at Mission Hills tournament
With McIlroy sitting out the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament, it's a chance for his rivals to catch up on the Road To Dubai
Ian Poulter admits he is going to be dining out on his superb Ryder Cup performance for years to come, but there is still one thing missing from the menu this season - a tour victory.
Poulter's inspirational display at Medinah spurred Europe to victory, but the Englishman is still winless in individual events. With a handful of tournaments left, the WGC-HSBC Champions, starting today at Mission Hills, is one of his chances to avoid a first winless season since 2008.
"[The Ryder Cup] is going to sustain me for a long time," said Poulter, 36, who is now 13th in the Race To Dubai after his fourth-place finish at last week's BMW Masters in Shanghai. "I'm going to be dining out on that one for quite a while, as I still am right now, but on a personal level I need to win a golf tournament.
"I feel that I've certainly played well enough this year. I'm going to put some pressure on myself over the last five tournaments to make sure I get a victory."
Poulter knows the 7,301-yard Olazabal course better than many of the elite field this week, having played in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup when it was held here from 2007 to 2009. That is a foursomes/four-ball event however, and this week presents a different challenge.
"You have a partner [in the World Cup] and now you don't," Poulter said. "But I think the course is one which opens itself up to quite a few birdies - five par-fives. I wouldn't be surprised to see someone go and shoot 10 under par this week. It's that type of golf course."
Most of the top players in the world are present, though two notable absentees are the world numbers one and two, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods. But McIlroy's absence gives the chasing pack in the Race To Dubai (the European Tour money list) a chance to catch him at the top.
Justin Rose can overtake the Northern Irishman with victory, and, nearly €900,000 (HK$9 million) behind in third place, he believes nothing less than a win will suffice if he is to pip him to the title.
Rose said: "I lost a bit of ground on the guys last week. The goal here is to give myself a chance going into Dubai, and I guess that would mean putting myself within the difference between first and second; knowing that if I win and Rory finishes second [in Dubai], I can still win the Race To Dubai.
"But also I'm in Rory's hands to a certain extent and I have to win this week to give myself a chance."
Rose tees off with Brandt Snedeker, to whom he was second in the recent Tour Championship, and big-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts.
Other appealing pairings in the draw are Masters champion Bubba Watson with last week's BMW Masters winner, Peter Hanson, and the breakout tour rookie Branden Grace, while Luke Donald tees up with Ernie Els and Dustin Johnson.
"Rory is making it tough on us," said Donald of the Race To Dubai (Donald is eighth). "He's in a very similar position than I was last year where he has a chance to win both money titles [US and Europe].
"He's got a pretty big lead. I'm going to need to win this event and win Dubai for any chance."
Local hopes will be carried by Wu Ashun and Liang Wenchong. Both said they felt at home in southern China. Liang also reiterated his belief that there needed to be one single tour in Asia rather than the current competing two to help Chinese golf flourish.
"I would like to see a big family for Asian players, a new platform which provide more opportunities for players in Asia," he said.