Rory has Westy in his sights
Rory McIlroy has placed Race to Dubai leader Lee Westwood firmly in his sights this week.
Rory McIlroy has placed Race to Dubai leader Lee Westwood firmly in his sights as the Holywood teenager bids to become the second youngest number one in European history this week.
McIlroy sits a mere 52,321 euros adrift of Westwood in second place in the Race to Dubai ahead of the penultimate event of the season after leapfrogging Martin Kaymer with a brilliant closing 63 and fourth place in Shanghai last week.
And after agonisingly missing out on what would then have been a maiden title in thrilling fashion at last year’s UBS Hong Kong Open, the 20-year-old has extra motivation to continue his recent form, which has yielded four top-10 finishes in his last five stroke-play events.
With the substantial prize money on offer at the season-ending Dubai World Championship, the Order of Merit will not be decided this week, although a win for either antagonist on Sunday would leave him in pole position.
“These two weeks are going to be very good. Hong Kong I love coming to. It’s my fifth year coming here – twice as an amateur and then this is my third Hong Kong Open. I love the city and golf course. It is one of my favourite weeks of the year,” said the world number 17.
“Winning this event will take care of catching Lee so that’s what I am focusing on. I will be keeping an eye on Lee’s scores all week. There is not much between us now so any ground I can gain this week will be good to take into Dubai but winning will take care of that gap so that is my main focus.”
McIlroy is chasing a first Order of Merit title in just his second season, which would see him move behind Seve Ballesteros as the youngest winner of the title, having only claimed a maiden title in Dubai earlier this year.
Westwood, 36, won seven times worldwide in 2000 to become European number one for the first time.
“I have had my chances to win after Dubai. I had a chance at the European Open where if I shot 70 on the last day I would have won. I sort of had a chance in Switzerland where I had two bad holes and I was second in the Alfred Dunhill Links,” he added.
“There have been chances but it has been such a consistent year with 12 top-10s and 10 top fives.”
Whatever McIlroy ultimately goes on to achieve in his career, the dramatic nature of what happened to him 12 months ago in Hong Kong will certainly have had a part of play.
Chinese Taipei’s Lin Wen-tang edged a thrilling three-way play-off that also included Italy’s Francesco Molinari.
After Lin failed to hole a birdie putt from six feet on the last during regulation, he remained in the play-off at the first extra hole after playing a brilliant second shot from the trees to within six feet.
With Molinari eliminated, McIlroy then hit his tee shot on the second play-off hole into the same trees, but played an equally remarkable recovery shot.
Lin, though, was in the middle of the fairway and hit a superb second to within a foot before the Asian Tour regular claimed his first European Tour honour.
“Experiences on the course make you learn about your game and yourself,” said McIlroy.
“A year on, I feel every day I wake up is a day to learn something new. I feel I need to keep doing that. I am still the same person as last year but my results have been better this year.
“I have great memories of playing last year, playing well to get into the play-off and then the play-off itself was incredible. It was one of the best experiences I have had on the golf course – bittersweet memories but I look on it as a positive.
“It was another week I got myself right in contention. This event last year got me in the top 50 in the world so it was a big event for me.”
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