Sten­son heads stand-alone quar­tet at Race to Dubai

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

DUBAI: The year-long Race to Dubai on the European Tour enters its home stretch with the sea­son-end­ing DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship start­ing to­day, with four play­ers still in the hunt to se­cure the hon­our of be­ing called Europe’s No 1.

The top-60 play­ers after last week’s Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge qual­ify for the DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship, but 56 of them will have to con­tend for the $8 mil­lion tour­na­ment, the rich­est on European Tour sched­ule out­side the ma­jors and World Golf Cham­pi­onships.

With 1,217,175 points for the win­ner, only No2 Danny Wil­lett, No3 Alex Noren and No4 Rory McIl­roy have the chance to catch up with Race to Dubai leader Hen­rik Sten­son. Eng­land’s Wil­lett has the best chance just 299,675 points adrift, but he has been strug­gling with his form since fin­ish­ing sec­ond in Italy in Septem­ber third week. World No 2 and FEDEX Cup cham­pion McIl­roy is 1,176,414 points be­hind Sten­son and while he has con­ceded the race to European No 1, the North­ern Ir­ish­man is keen to de­fend his ti­tle, which he also won in 2012.

“Math­e­mat­i­cally I can win the Race to Dubai, but it’s not go­ing to hap­pen,” said McIl­roy. “I wouldn’t hold my breath. I think the three guys that are ahead of me are play­ing very good golf, es­pe­cially the two Swedes, Hen­rik (Sten­son) and Alex (Noren). Alex with what he’s done over the past few weeks; Hen­rik has had a fan­tas­tic year, and so has Danny, ob­vi­ously.

“So I don’t ex­pect those guys to play badly this week. I’m just con­cen­trat­ing on try­ing to win the golf tour­na­ment and if I can do that, I’ll be very happy.”

Wil­lett was hop­ing his fi­nal two sub-70 rounds in Ned­bank Chal­lenge would spark his bid to win the Race to Dubai, hav­ing fin­ished sec­ond last year to McIl­roy.

“We’ve got four rounds of golf left in what’s been a pretty long sea­son and slightly dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion to last year, but we still need to win the golf tour­na­ment to win the Race to Dubai,” said the Mas­ters cham­pion.

“We’re 300,000 points be­hind Hen­rik. If we can do what we can con­trol this week and we can win a golf tour­na­ment, then no­body can take it away from us.”

Noren is com­ing off a win last week in South Africa, his fourth in last 11 European Tour starts. But the hard-work­ing Swede was tak­ing noth­ing for granted, start­ing the week 633,436 points adrift of Sten­son.

“Well, it’s still a new tour­na­ment, new grass, new chal­lenges. Ob­vi­ously, it’s nice com­ing in with a vic­tory last week. I al­ways thought it’s eas­ier if you have a good week be­fore and you’re a lit­tle bit more re­laxed and en­joy­ing it a lot,” said Noren.

“But yeah, it’s a new week and you al­ways have your prepa­ra­tion. I’m not fo­cus­ing too much on re­sults. I am just try­ing to get my game in shape. I take it as it comes. I’ve never re­ally been into look­ing at num­bers like that.”

Two play­ers who qual­i­fied as top-60 for the tour­na­ment - Scot­land’s Rus­sell Knox and North­ern Ire­land’s Graeme McDow­ell - have with­drawn from the field and have been re­placed by No61 and 62 France’s Rafael Jac­quelin and Chile’s Felipe Aguilar. The top10 play­ers at the end of the tour­na­ment qual­ify for the $5 mil­lion bonus pool.

SUN CITY: File photo shows Hen­rik Sten­son of Swe­den blast out of bunker on the six green dur­ing the Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge in Sun City, South Africa.—

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