McIlory aiming for thrilling climax
What a weekend this could be for Rory McIlroy in Dubai – the country where he achieved the first win of his professional career.
What a weekend this could be for Rory McIlroy in Dubai – the country where he achieved the first win of his professional career in February.
The 20-year-old from Northern Ireland has his sights on the first prize of more than £744,000 at the Dubai World Championship.
If he can do that then McIlroy will also collect a bonus of nearly £900,000 for winning the European Tour Order of Merit. He would be the second youngest player ever to do it – Seve Ballesteros was 19 in 1976 – and he would also become only the second 20-year-old to make the world top 10 since the ranking system began in 1986.
Even a runners-up finish on Sunday could be good enough for that and if it happens Sergio Garcia will be delighted to have company.
“I love the way he plays and I love the kid,” said the 29-year-old Spaniard.
“It’s great to see him doing so well. He’s been playing great all year and he’s playing great this week.”
At halfway on the new Greg Norman-designed Earth course McIlroy was a share of second place, but even with a lead of over £114,000 at the top of the Order of Merit he still has it all to do.
That is because the player two strokes ahead of him was his chief money list rival Lee Westwood.
Winning the season-ending event would also guarantee Westwood a second title – he was the Tour’s number one in 2000 – and he believes he has one great advantage – experience.
The Worksop golfer says of his partnership with caddie Billy Foster: “There’s probably nobody more experienced than the pair of us, so hopefully that will have a massive effect.
“He’s had a few really good bits of advice – and if it turns out well I’ll tell you them all on Sunday evening.”
One thing Westwood was prepared to reveal was that Foster has “kind of” banned him from looking at leaderboards while he plays.
“I’ve never done it before and it will be hard,” stated Westwood. “I have no interest in anybody else’s game. I will look on Sunday night.”
One suspects, though, that he and Foster might just bring that forward if the situation demands it late in the final round.
McIlroy was tied for second with England’s Ross McGowan, Colombian Camilo Villegas, Australian Robert Allenby, South African Louis Oosthuizen and also Dubliner Padraig Harrington, who showed what an exciting finish might be in store tomorrow by putting two balls in water a closing double bogey seven in his second round 69.
He, Westwood and McIlroy all led by two at some stage in the second round, but while McIlroy had two late three-putt bogeys Westwood finished with a 20-foot birdie putt to double his advantage.
Garcia was also asked about the possibility of him and McIlroy pairing up at the Ryder Cup in Wales next October.
“It would be awesome no matter who he plays with,” he replied. “He’s going to be a great asset to the team and Martin Kaymer could be unbelievable too. Monty (captain Colin Montgomerie) should be very happy – it looks good.”
Garcia believes McIlroy is doing the right thing by taking up a US Tour card next year.
“I think it’s natural move. He knows what to expect. He’s played in America already and it’s not like he’s a rookie.
“If he wants to become the best player he can I think he has to. He didn’t ask me, but I would have advised him to do it.
“And the most important thing is to stay with himself. People think you have to change your whole game and that’s not true.”
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