Rory McIlroy’s trip to Hong Kong may not have been the best thing for his health, but it’s certainly done wonders for the health of the European Tour.
McIlroy won the UBS Hong Kong Open but admitted his energy levels are down after a recent schedule that beggars belief. The European Tour will be hoping there is enough left in the tank for this week’s Dubai World Championship.
The victory means the Race to Dubai is back on. Before McIlroy’s two-shot win over Frenchman Gregory Havret, the Race to Dubai was looking like a mere lap of honor for Luke Donald. Instead, European No. 1 Donald will go head-to-head with European No. 2 McIlroy in Dubai for the privilege of becoming Europe’s top player.
“It meant a lot knowing that I had to go out there and play well to keep myself alive in the Race to Dubai,” McIlroy said about winning in Hong Kong. “That was one of the goals going out today, was to win this tournament to keep myself in with a shout next week. That’s very dependent on what Luke does because he’s got such a big lead. If I can somehow get myself into contention next week, you never know.”
McIlroy trails Donald by €798,788 in the race to be European No. 1. With a prize fund of $7.5 million and a first place of over €900,000, McIlroy can become European No. 1 if he wins in Dubai and Donald finishes worse than 10th.
It’s not the first time McIlroy has gone to Dubai with a chance to become Europe’s best. Three years ago he missed out to Lee Westwood.
With a U.S. Open trophy in his cabinet, his first major, no one would deny that McIlroy is well worthy of Europe’s No. 1 title. However, so is Donald.
The Englishman won this year’s PGA Tour money list and is going for a unique double. No player has ever won the money titles on either side of the Atlantic in the same season. Donald has three European Tour wins this season, including the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event. The tag “European No. 1” fits him well.
This week’s heavyweight contest is good news for the European Tour. This Dubai World Championship is the last of the three-year contract to stage the end of season finale in the UAE. Selling 2012 money list sponsorship should be easier if prospective sponsors think they’re going to get similar showdowns on an annual basis.
How does the Race to Sun City sound? Or the Race to Abu Dhabi? Both possibilities have been muted in recent months.
So get ready for a showdown in the City of Gold. The only hope is that this doesn’t prove one tournament too far for McIlroy. While Donald has been at home helping wife Diane with the birth of second child Sophia, McIlroy has played 10 out of 12 weeks.
Quite why he’d risk burnout at such a young age is questionable. No doubt he’s been well rewarded, but he’s running on fumes. The Northern Irishman has said he’ll take a serious look at his schedule in future. He needs to, because he doesn’t need to chase the buck. Just majors.
Hopefully McIlroy can last another week. Hopefully he and Donald can put up a show, and the European Tour can finish 2011 with a bang.