Wil­lett loosens McIl­roy’s grip on Euro­pean num­ber one

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

SHANG­HAI: Rory McIl­roy is fac­ing a fight to re­tain his Race to Dubai ti­tle af­ter a stun­ning fin­ish at the WGC-HSBC Cham­pi­ons in Shang­hai left English­man Danny Wil­lett breath­ing down his neck.

Wil­lett’s 10-un­der-par 62 on Sun­day, the low­est round of the week in a world-class field, saw him charge up the leader­board at She­shan In­ter­na­tional Golf Club to fin­ish three strokes be­hind win­ner Rus­sell Knox of Scot­land.

It cut 2014 Race to Dubai cham­pion McIl­roy’s lead in the bat­tle to be Euro­pean num­ber one to just 74,214 points, with Wil­lett set to play one more event than the North­ern Ir­ish­man. The English world num­ber 26 can strike a po­ten­tially de­ci­sive blow later this week across Shang­hai when he tees up in the $7 mil­lion BMW Masters, which McIl­roy is sit­ting out.

There are more than a mil­lion points up for grabs for the win­ner at Lake Malaren when Wil­lett tees up on Thurs­day, a week be­fore the sea­son fi­nale in Dubai. McIl­roy shot his best round of the week, a six-un­der 66, on Sun­day, but needed a 35-foot birdie putt at the last to take a share of 11th place and keep his nose in front in the stand­ings.

Wil­lett said his eyes are firmly fixed on steal­ing the Race to Dubai crown from the four-time ma­jor win­ner and cur­rent world num­ber three. “This could be a very big re­sult for me,” Wil­lett told AFP af­ter his fi­nal round at She­shan.

“With Rory not play­ing next week, I could gain a few more points on him and give us a nice buzz go­ing into the fi­nal week into Dubai.” A fin­ish any­where in the top 25 in the 78-man BMW Masters field this week will see the in­form Wil­lett over­take the ab­sent McIl­roy.

“I’ve been de­ter­mined all year, ever since we got to num­ber one the first week out (when Wil­lett won the Ned­bank Cham­pi­onship),” said Wil­lett. “Af­ter the big win at the Ned­bank, kept win­ning and press­ing hard and we were able to post some re­ally good num­bers around the world.”

An­other vic­tory this week for Wil­lett would mean McIl­roy would al­most cer­tainly have to win the clos­ing DP Tour Cham­pi­onship in Dubai and hope Wil­lett fin­ishes out­side the top five.

“He’s got a great chance to do some­thing next week at the BMW,” McIl­roy told AFP af­ter his round Sun­day. “He’s play­ing next week and has a great chance to creep up on me or over­take.

“I’ve done well in Dubai be­fore,” added the North­ern Ir­ish world num­ber three, whose chal­lenge in the WGCHSBC Cham­pi­ons was ham­pered by a bout of food poi­son­ing last week. “I’ll just go there and try my best to win and hope that will be enough.” —AFP

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