Race to Dubai winner McIlroy wants to finish on a high

The 34-year-old Northern Irishman sent out an ominous warning to his rivals


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Rory McIlroy looked in sparkling form during a practice round. — AFP
Rory McIlroy looked in sparkling form during a practice round. — AFP

Published: Wed 15 Nov 2023, 9:28 PM

Last updated: Wed 15 Nov 2023, 9:29 PM

The golfing spotlight turns to Dubai this week where the top 50 players go toe-to-toe in the $10 million DP World Tour Championship, the fifth and final Rolex Series event of the year which will be played at the Jumeirah Golf Estate.

Needless to say, the field is flush with high-quality players among them a supremely talented trio who have won the event seven times between them since 2015 – Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Although the Race to Dubai honours have been decided, somewhat prematurely, there is still a lot to play for over the next four days at the Greg Norman-designed Earth course, which was built specifically for championships and launched in 2009

Among the star-studded field teeing off at 8:30 am (UAE) on Thursday morning are all ten of the players who represented the winning European Ryder Cup side and a clutch of rapidly emerging talents.

Australian Min Woo Lee, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, will be joined by exciting youngsters like Denmark’s Rasmus Hojgaard, Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune and Germany’s Yannik Paul, who will all be looking for a life-changing status to their careers as the new year approaches.

All eyes will be on McIlroy, the recently crowned 2023 Order of Merit winner, who looked in sparkling form during a practice round over the 7,675 yards, par-72 Earth course on Monday.

The 34-year-old Northern Irishman, who narrowly missed winning a fifth major title at the US Open when he finished second to Wyndham Clark, sent out an ominous warning to his rivals when he said that he had come to Dubai with just one intention, to win.

“This golf course sets up well for me and it's a place I've always done well at,” he said. "It's nice to come in here with at least that (Race to Dubai battle) off my mind so I can just concentrate on the golf tournament.

“I'd say I went through a period in my career where I didn't prioritise it, I guess. I won my third one in 2015 and if you look at 2016 through to 2021, I probably could have done more to try to prioritise it.

“I'm feeling like my game is in as good of shape as it has ever been throughout my, whatever it is, 16-, 17-year career. I'm happy with that, and will try to finish this year off on a high and play well this week and reset and get ready for 2024,” added McIlroy.

One of the players who will be looking to the DP World Championship for the first time is Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who referenced fellow countryman and Manchester City football club’s goal-scoring machine Erling Haaland when he said: “It's cool to be Norwegian and rooting for all the Norwegian athletes out there. It's been amazing. It's been fun."

Speaking about his chances in Dubai, Hovland said:” I love golf here. The golf courses are really good. The weather is nice. Food is good. I just really enjoy coming here.

“But obviously would like to win on another course over here and I think this course suits me well so I'm looking forward to playing some good golf.”

Also in the mix and hoping to win at the Earth course for the fourth time is Spain’s 2023 Masters champion, Rahm.

Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood also appear to be home in Dubai while a lot can be said of the challenge from Min Woo Lee a player who has made giant strides over the past couple of years having established himself firmly on the PGA Tour.

The Earth course suits Adrian Meronk, a Dubai resident, who has posted rounds as low as 65 on the course which he probably knows like the back of his hand.

All in all, it looks like the next four days are going to serve up some spectacular golf filled with birdies and eagles and a potentially magical finish on Sunday when the winner will take home a tidy $3 million for his effort.

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