Race to Dubai heats up
Henrik Stenson in pole position, but top opponents closing in fast
Henrik Stenson remains in pole position to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai with just two events remaining this season but he now has top-class company breathing right down his neck.
Two mid-pack finishes in China have seen the Swede’s comfortable lead over second-placed Graeme McDowell at the top of the money list whittled down to just under 146,000 points after the Northern Irishman’s third-place finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
England’s Justin Rose is in third place, just over 325,000 points adrift after finishing fifth on Sunday, with fellow Englishman Ian Poulter in fourth after his runner’s-up finish in Shanghai.
With Stenson, Rose and Poulter all moving on to Turkey for the US$7 million Turkish Airlines Open, which begins on Thursday, it is all to play for.
McDowell is skipping Turkey, but all four Ryder Cup stars will be at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai the following week when a further US$8 million is up for grabs.
Poulter was the defending champion at the WGC-HSBC Champions, which came hard on the heels of the BMW Masters, also in Shanghai.
But he came up just short as Dustin Johnson beat him by three strokes courtesy of a superb eagle-birdie knockout blow at the 16th and 17th holes in the final round.
“I guess it was a good defence,” said 37-year-old Poulter. “Obviously a little disappointed not to put my hands back on the trophy, but 15 birdies and an eagle at the weekend is some pretty good golf.”
Poulter also revealed he had challenged Stenson to a side bet on the outcome of the Race to Dubai before the Shanghai swing. “He gave me odds of 10-1 that I wouldn’t beat him,” said Poulter.
“I told him I was going to hunt him down,” he added, smiling. “I think the odds are a lot less now.”
McDowell knew a win or second place at the WGC event could have seen him pass Stenson and felt he missed out on the chance.
“There is a pang of disappointment but I am proud of the way I played, tee to green especially,” McDowell said.
“I shot 14-under on the weekend. Dustin Johnson was in a different league off the tee and gave us a little bit of a sniff and then promptly slammed the door,” he added.
“But it bodes well for the Race to Dubai. This is what the DP World Championship is all about, having quality players with a chance to win, not only the tournament but the money list.”
Rose, who did not play in the previous week’s BMW Masters, was happy with his work in Shanghai and is relishing the battles ahead.
“I feel the Race to Dubai has gotten pretty fruity now,” he said. “Henrik probably couldn’t believe that leaderboard, probably the worst possible for him with me, G-Mac [McDowell] and Poults [Poulter] all up there.”
Former world number one Rory McIlroy has finally secured his place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, which he won last year.
His joint sixth-placed finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions propelled him from 62nd in the money list to 38th, comfortably inside the top 60 who will qualify for Dubai.
“Nice to go into an off-week now and I know that I am into Dubai,” said McIlroy.
“Obviously I have good memories going to Dubai from winning there last year, so hopefully I can put up a strong defence of my title there.”