Westy, McIlroy are men with a mission
One hand on the Harry Vardon Trophy. That’s the chance the UBS Hong Kong Open gives Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy.
The Race to Dubai title will not be decided this week, but the UBS Hong Kong Open does represent a chance for leading contenders Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy to put one hand on the Harry Vardon Trophy.
Former Order of Merit winner Westwood, 36, leads 20-year-old McIlroy by a mere 52,321 euros with this week’s tournament the penultimate event before the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
McIlroy leapt ahead of Martin Kaymer and trimmed Westwood’s advantage with a superb fourth in Shanghai last week.
Westwood, who topped the European Tour money list in 2000, was forced to settle for eighth following a disappointing final round.
With third-placed Kaymer heading back to Germany for further tests on his injured foot and fifth-placed Paul Casey missing Hong Kong due to a long-standing rib injury which could also rule him out of Dubai, the in-form duo of Westwood and McIlroy have a chance to move into pole position at Fanling this week.
Westwood said: “It would be nice to have a lead going into the last event because it means that if I win the event I will win the money list, my fate is in my hands so I would like to come out of this week still in front.
“This week is going to have an effect. We are playing for big prize money next week, but it would certainly help winning this week.”
Current world number four Westwood won seven times worldwide in 2000 to become European number one, while McIlroy is mounting his first serious challenge on the Tour’s money list after only posting a maiden career victory in Dubai at the start of the year.
The Northern Irishman said: “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.
“These two weeks are going to be very good. I love coming to Hong Kong. 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 the golf course.
“It is one of my favourite weeks of the year.”
Both players have hit form at the right time with Westwood, a winner of 30 worldwide titles, claiming a ninth top 10 finish in his last 10 stroke play events last week.
“I played pretty well in 2000 and in 1998-99 when I was winning a lot of events, but I feel better now,” the Worksop golfer added.
“I feel my game has become more rounded and there are less weaknesses so now it is just a case of finishing it off more often like I did in the late ’90s and 2000.
“My previous highest place (on the world rankings) was fourth back in 2000 and I was there for two or three weeks so to go through a slump and get back to fourth obviously means a lot, it probably means more than anything I have done this year so far.”
McIlroy has posted top-10 finishes in his last five stroke play events with last week’s fourth place coming after setting a course record of nine-under-par during his final round.
The world number 17 said: “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.”
Injury rules Open champion Cameron Smith out of BMW Championship
The Australian world number two currently sits third in the FedEx Cup standings, 1,132 points behind leader Will Zalatoris.
Will Zalatoris triumphs in dramatic playoff to claim first PGA Tour win
The American defeated Austria’s Sepp Straka in three extra holes at TPC Southwind – despite not making a birdie.
Ewen Ferguson seals wire-to-wire victory at ISPS Handa World Invitational
The 26-year-old Scot also won the Qatar Masters in March.
New Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald motivated by ‘bitter’ memories of 2021 defeat
Stenson was stripped of the role for breaking his contract by joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
The task facing Luke Donald after replacing Henrik Stenson
Stenson was appointed on March 15 and said he was fully committed to a role before signing with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
Tony Finau claims second straight PGA Tour victory
The American won the 3M Open in his previous outing.
Henrik Stenson cushions Ryder Cup blow with £3.6m debut win in LIV Golf
The Swede was stripped of his role as Europe captain after joining the Saudi-backed breakaway tour.
Former Masters champion Bubba Watson becomes latest player to join LIV Golf
The left-hander is currently sidelined by a knee injury and is not expected to play until next season,
Luke Donald tipped to replace Henrik Stenson as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain
The Swede lost the job 127 days after his appointment following his decision to join the LIV Golf series.