The Race That Seems To Go On For Ever
Post from Sports Writer Derek Clements
I used to look forward to the Dubai World Championship. All right, so it isn’t really a world championship at all, but at least it wasn't the FedEx Cup. I don’t understand how somebody can win three of the four FedEx playoff events and still fail to be crowned champion if the one they miss out on is the Tour Championship.
So you will understand why I am bewildered at the European Tour’s decision to follow the American example with three tournaments leading up to the grand finale - the BMW Masters, WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. To make matters worse, the first two events were played in Shanghai. That's in China, you know. The Final Series, they call it.
The Race to Dubai has now been converted to a points table with every euro of official money being converted into one point. But here is where it gets really complicated: any player who participates in all three of the above events will be awarded a points bonus of 20% of his total official money earned in these three events, which will be added to his Race to Dubai total at the conclusion of the Turkish Open. You keeping up so far?
Any player who participates in the BMW Masters, HSBC Champions or Turkish Open who was ranked outside of the top 110 on the Race to Dubai at the conclusion of the Perth International will not have his earnings from these tournaments count on the 2013 Race to Dubai. Furthermore, any tournament invitees at the BMW Masters or Turkish Open are also excluded from having their earnings from these events count on the Race to Dubai.
When we finally get to Dubai (the tournament begins on November 14), the top 60 players on the order of merit will fight it for a shed-load of euros (almost £900,000 for the winner of the tournament, plus various bonus payments) and the right to be called the best player in Europe.
We now know who has retained their playing rights for 2014 and who has to go back to Tour School and attempt to qualify to do it all over again next year. For those who were on or near the bubble, the past few weeks have been agonising. And for those who failed to retain their card, well just don't tell them that life as a Tour pro is a glamorous existence because, for them, it isn't.
But let's focus on who stands to win what in Dubai.
There are only a handful of players in with a shout of picking up the main prize and, surprisingly, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald do not feature, despite winning the PGA Tour and European money lists in 2012 and 2011 respectively. McIlroy is 60th, Donald 58th.
This time, Henrik Stenson is the man. He came close to emulating McIlroy and Donald on the PGA Tour thanks to a barnstorming second half of the season, when he seemed to be in contention almost every week.
Graeme McDowell's great start to the year is the only reason that he remains in contention, in second place - to be frank, he had a poor summer.
Justin Rose is third after his fabulous victory in the US Open. Apart from Stenson, he has been the most consistent European in world golf during 2013 and would love to win the European Order of Merit for a second time.
Despite a disappointing season in the majors, Matteo Manassero continues to climb the world rankings - he is now 31st. But he won the BMW PGA championship and missed the cut in only one mainstream European Tour event (the Portugal Masters, where one under par after 36 holes could hardly be described as bad golf). Incredibly, the Italian is still only 20 years old. If he doesn't finish top of the pile in Europe this year, he surely will in the near future.
Sadly, it is surely only a matter of time before he transfers his allegiance to the PGA Tour. Doing things the other way around has been Peter Uihlein, who stands 10thin the Race to Dubai. It is worth reminding ourselves that not only did he win a tournament (the low-key Madeira Island Open), but he was runner-up at both the Dunhill LInks and Wales Open and had four other top 10 finishes.
Uihlein's father is the head honcho at Titleist, and the American knew that he was certain to receive plenty of sponsor exemptions on the PGA Tour, but he wanted to make his way in the game on his own merit. He is a terrific ball striker and playing on so many different types of courses around Europe has made him a better player than he would have been had he remained in the United States. His success will also have done wonders for his confidence.
It has also been terrific to see Chris Wood win his first tournament and Tommy Fleetwood, who nearly lost his card last year, live up to the potential we all knew he possessed.
Best of all, and striking a blow for the common man, Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is fast approaching his 50th birthday, continues to defy the advancing years. Despite playing in only 15 events, the Spaniard is comfortably within the top 20. We must all hope that he continues to ply his trade on the European Tour, where he is much loved and where he is still easily good enough to win again.
My money is on Stenson to complete a remarkable year by winning the Race to Dubai, but I have a sneaky feeling that Manassero just might gatecrash the party by winning the world championship that isn't a world championship - and that he will find himself battling for the tournament with a certain R McIlroy.
It has been another fabulous year, although it finishes in confusing fashion. Does anybody else out there agree that there is no logic in designatiing the ISPS Handa Perth International as the final full field European Tour event of 2013? That is Perth in Australia, which is not in Europe, and not Perth in Scotland, which is in Europe.
Meanwhile in America, they have already started the 2014 season. In 2013.
Tickets for the four-day DP World Tour Championship are free and can be obtained by registering online at the event website www.DPWTC.com.
Derek Clements is a sports journalist with a particular passion for golf with over 12 years of experience covering golf and other sports including Chief Sub-Editor on the sports desk of The Sunday Times. To contact Derek email direct via [email protected]
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