Race to Dubai in numbers.

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Matt Cooper tells the story of the memorable 2009 European Tour season from 1 through to 18.

Matt Cooper tells the story of the memorable 2009 European Tour season from 1 through to 18.

Number 1: Lee Westwood who won two of his last four starts of the season to claim the Race to Dubai title. His consistency in the last half of the season was extraordinary: two wins, another three top three finishes and a total of 10 top nine finishes in 12 events from July.

Number 2: Rory McIlroy who in only his second full season of professional golf came so close to withstanding Westwood’s late charge for the number one spot. He topped and tailed his year nicely – four early top five finishes (including a maiden win in Dubai) started the season well and then he concluded with six top seven efforts in his final seven tournaments.

3 wins: Gregory Bourdy’s European Tour career total after claiming the Hong Kong Open in November. In doing so he became the first Frenchman to win in three consecutive seasons.

4 second place finishes: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano’s 2009 season total. In April he was actually the runner-up for three tournaments on the trot: at the Estoril Open de Portugal, the China Open and the Ballantine’s Championship. He completed the unwanted but lucrative quartet in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.

5 matches: And a mammoth 126 holes was what it needed for Ross Fisher to claim the re-branded and re-located Volvo World Matchplay Championship. Using a Champions League style format, and moved from Wentworth to the Costa del Sol, it had some pros and some cons, but Fisher loved every second of it. He defeated Anthony Kim 4&3 in the final to claim the 750,000 Euro cheque for first place.
6 stroke victory: The largest winning margin of the season claimed by three players – Argentina’s Daniel Vancsik trounced the field in the Italian Open at Royal Park I Roveri, Sweden’s Christian Nilsson did the same when collecting the St Omer Open in June and – most impressively of all – Westwood did the same to the elite field in the Dubai World Championship on the final weekend of the season.

Double bogey 7: Oskar Henningsson’s score on his first hole in the Moravia Silesia Open. 71 holes later he was crowned champion, completing the transformation from Nordic League nobody to European Tour winner in less than 12 months. The Swede had become the first player to win all three stages of Q-school at the end of 2008 before his maiden tour win came, fittingly, at the Prosper Golf Resort.

8 under par for 8 holes: The best eagle/birdie streak of the year came from Spain’s Jose Manuel Lara. At the Moravia Silesia Open one eagle and six birdies allowed him to play seven holes (from the seventh) in eight under par.

9-iron: The club Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez hit from trouble on the final hole of the SAS Masters at Barseback. It was the shot of the season: having blasted his tee-shot through the dog-leg he was left in the rough, with trees blocking his view of the green. The conservative approach seemed obvious but he thrashed at the ball with the 9-iron, the ball soared above the trees and implausibly it landed it like a butterfly, a mere five feet from the flag.

10 players under par: At the end of the Ballantine’s Championship on Jeju Island in April. The conditions all week were horrendous – viciously windy and wet – and in the third round only Frenchman Francois Delamontagne was able to break par (and only 11 players signed for less than 76!). Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee eventually prevailed after a three-man play-off.

11 under par: Rafael Cabrera Bello’s score when shooting a remarkable final round of 60 to win the Austrian Golf Open in September. He even had a 30-foot putt for eagle (and a 59) on the final green but settled for the 60 which helped him turn an eight shot deficit after 54 holes into a one-shot victory over Benn Barham.

12 years: The gap between Michael Jonzon’s first European Tour win and his second. The Swede finally claimed October’s Castello Masters by holing an 18-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green after having lost three shots to par on the previous three holes.

13 shots difference: Between Christian Cevaer’s final score in the 2009 European Open at the London GC and Ross Fisher’s winning total at the same venue 12 months earlier. It was a remarkable win for the Frenchman. Everyone agreed that the winner needed to be a long-hitter and yet the shortest driver of the week ground the big men down!

14 strokes: the number Stewart Cink needed to complete the four-hole play-off in the Open Championship at Turnberry. It was six shots less than Tom Watson required. Watson had defied Father Time for 72 holes, playing more like a 29-year-old than a 59-year-old. In extra time he aged visibly and played like a 69-year-old. Few said as much – there was so much else to say – but it actually put his 72-hole effort into perspective and made it all the more extraordinary.

15th lead after three rounds of a major: Is what the 2009 PGA Championship was for Tiger Woods. On every previous occasion – all 14 of them – Woods had won the tournament but Korea’s YE Yang stunned the world number one – and the world too. Not only did he do something no-one else had done but he did it in style: playing alongside Woods and beating him by five shots to earn a three-shot tournament victory.

16 rounds: Is all it took for 20-year-old Tano Goya to collect victory in his rookie year on tour. He played three times in South Africa, returned home to Argentina, warmed up with a start in Mexico on the PGA Tour and then won the Madeira Island Open at Porto Santo – only his fourth start of the European Tour season (and only his sixth start at that level).

17-under-par: The most common winning score of the season. Six winners completed their week on that figure: Richard Sterne (Alfred Dunhill Championship), Anthony Kang (Maybank Malaysian Open), Danny Lee (Johnnie Walker Classic), Shane Lowry (3 Irish Open), Paul Casey (BMW PGA Championship) and Phil Mickelson (HSBC Champions).

18 greens in regulation: The number Ross McGowan posted in his second round 66 during the Madrid Masters in October. Ironically next day he missed more greens and shot 60. His long game was imperious all week and, together with a putter purchased on Ebay (the same model he used as a junior), it produced a week of stunning golf to complete a highly impressive maiden European Tour win.

And finally, not forgetting …

0 Euros: The amount Danny Lee and Shane Lowry banked between them when winning the Johnnie Walker Classic and 3 Irish Open respectively. Both amateurs when they scored their maiden European Tour wins they subsequently turned pro and are slowly coming to terms with their new status.

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