McIl­roy-chasers close in as sea­son heads for fi­nale

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

SHANG­HAI: Rory McIl­roy still has his nose in front in the Race to Dubai but the 2015 Euro­pean Tour sea­son is set for a sprint to the line af­ter his chal­lengers closed in at the week­end. Sec­ond-placed Danny Wil­lett nar­rowed the gap yes­ter­day to an al­most neg­li­gi­ble 1,613 points af­ter McIl­roy’s de­ci­sion to skip Shang­hai’s $7 mil­lion BMW Mas­ters, the last event be­fore this week’s sea­son-end­ing DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship in Dubai.

“It’s go­ing to be close, but re­gard­less of what hap­pens I guess I have to beat Rory in Dubai,” said Wil­lett, whose bo­gey on the par-three 17th at Lake Malaren Sun­day left him tied 28th and cost him the chance to tee up on Thurs­day as the race leader.

Wil­lett’s fel­low English­man Justin Rose moved up to third in the stand­ings af­ter a fi­nal day five-un­der 67 in Shang­hai en­abled him to fin­ish tied sev­enth, two strokes be­hind play­off win­ner Kristof­fer Broberg of Swe­den. “Close but no ci­gar around this course,” said world num­ber six Rose, who is 650,999 points adrift of McIl­roy with 1,333,330 avail­able to the win­ner in Dubai.

“Tied sev­enth is ob­vi­ously a de­cent week but I don’t know if it makes it eas­ier or harder next week,” added Rose, who won the old Euro­pean Tour Or­der of Merit and the Harry Var­don Tro­phy in 2007, two years be­fore it rein­car­nated into the Race to Dubai. “I caught up a bit of ground on Rory and Danny. I think I’m go­ing to have to win in Dubai now to have a chance.” McIl­roy will be hard to beat around Dubai’s Earth course on which he has fin­ished in the top five in all but one of his six ap­pear­ances, win­ning the ti­tle in 2012.

“Yeah, I’m go­ing for a Dubai dou­ble af­ter win­ning ear­lier in the sea­son (at the Dubai Desert Clas­sic),” McIl­roy told AFP be­fore leav­ing Shang­hai at the end of the WGCHSBC Cham­pi­ons a week ear­lier. “I love the golf course and, yeah, I’ve done well there be­fore.” The world num­ber three, who has topped Europe’s stand­ings since April 12 when he took fourth place in the US Mas­ters, has al­ready ar­rived in Dubai to pre­pare, fly­ing in on Satur­day.

‘Re­group, chill out’

Wil­lett was clearly dis­ap­pointed with his week’s work in Shang­hai. “Putted pretty poorly for four days. Never really got any­thing go­ing,” Wil­lett said. His two-un­der par 70 left him on seven-un­der for the tour­na­ment, 10 shots be­hind the win­ner. “I’ve got a day-and-a-half off to re­group and chill out, and I know I’m go­ing to have a chance next week,” he said. Oth­ers who can still win the Race to Dubai missed a golden op­por­tu­nity to go top in McIl­roy’s ab­sence.

Ire­land’s Shane Lowry and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen needed sec­ond places, but they never got in the mix, fin­ish­ing well down at 56th and 37th in the 78-player field. Bran­den Grace needed to win to take over at the top but ended up 22nd. South Korea’s An Byeong-Hun gave him­self an out­side chance with tied third in the BMW Mas­ters to move to sev­enth in the stand­ings, 1,254,567 be­hind McIl­roy.

A vic­tory for any of them could se­cure the Race to Dubai ti­tle next Sun­day, but they would also need McIl­roy and Wil­lett to fin­ish well down the elite 60-player field. Their big­gest prob­lem is that McIl­roy rarely does. — AFP

— AP

SHANG­HAI: Martin Kaymer of Ger­many hits the ball from the bunker on the 18th hole dur­ing the third round of the BMW Mas­ters golf tour­na­ment at the Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shang­hai, China.

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