Hong Kong - Final chance for Race to DubaiWith the season-ending Dubai World Championship presented by DP World now just over a week away, this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open represents the “last chance saloon” for players trying to force their way into the decisive top 60 and book their spot at the Jumeirah Golf Estates on December 8-11 for the $7.5m showpiece.
And at the opposite end of the scale there are a handful of players hoping a solid finish in the penultimate event of the 2011 season can propel them into the top 118 of the money list and with it retain their playing rights for next year.
Currently teetering perilously on the bubble for qualification for the Dubai World Championship are Ireland’s Peter Lawrie and Scotsman Stephen Gallacher, who currently lie in 60th and 61st place respectively in The Race to Dubai, and both men will take to the Hong Kong Golf Club this Thursday knowing anything could happen over the following four days.
Lawrie said: “I’ll be disappointed if I don’t make it but this is one of things where you can only do what you can. You can only look after yourself. Whatever happens, happens. Looking at the situation, I think if I make the cut here I will go past a few players and I think that will be good enough.
“But I have never come to a tournament just hoping to make a cut before: I have always come to try and win them so why should this be any different?
“It would be great to get there. It does mean something to qualify for the season ending tournament and there have been two so far and I have played them both so I would like to continue that. I feel that I have played well enough to be right up there all season. Going on stats I should be way up the Race to Dubai but I am not and I am in this situation.”
And Lawrie is only too aware that Gallacher, who currently lies just over €17,000 behind the Irishman, will be breathing down his neck in Fanling.
“I think Stephen needs to finish in the top 30 to pass me, but you can’t just look at the guys directly behind me,” he said. “The money here in Hong Kong is so big that one of the guys that are trying to keep their cards could win here and go past me as well so all of that is out with my control.
“At the end of the day, I have these two hands and it’s in my hands whether I get there or not.”
With $2,750,000 in prize money on offer in Hong Kong, Gallacher is only too aware that he retains every chance of gaining a place in Dubai with a good week in Hong Kong, but will be trying not to become too preoccupied with those thoughts during the event.
He said: “It’s one of those situations that you try and not think about to be honest. I am just trying to treat this as a normal tournament that I am preparing the best I can for to try and win it, so I am not really thinking about it too much at the moment.
“That could change if it comes down to a certain point on Sunday and you start to look at where you are and where other guys are and work out if you really need to go for it but until that point I won’t be thinking about it too much.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am desperate to play in it because it is such a big event and once you are there you are playing for a massive amount of money and all that comes with it in terms of Ryder Cup Points, World Ranking Points and all of that.
“It would be a great way to end the season and make the last event of the year and just get another chance to go up against the best players in the world. That’s what we are all trying to do at the end of the day so I would love to get there.”
One thing both players agree on, however, is their delight in contesting for qualification to the Dubai finale rather than vying to avoid the high-pressure European Tour Qualifying School that awaits for those finishing outside of the top 118, as Lawrie admitted.
“It could be far worse,” he said. “I could be down at the other end fighting for my card and looking at going to Tour School, so worrying about the Dubai World Championship or going to Tour School is just a completely different thing.”
The cut-off point to retain playing privileges for The 2012 European Tour International Schedule is currently 118th on The Race to Dubai – comprising the top 115 Members from Categories 1-14 along with any Category 15 or Affiliate Members, with Fredrik Jacobson (35th), Ryan Moore (72nd) and Jbe Kruger (95th) falling into that camp.
Richard McEvoy last week made the most significant move into the all-important 118 places after an excellent joint third place finish at the SA Open Championship, a performance that thrust the Englishman from 121st up to 107th and crucially secured his European Tour for the 2012 season, and this week’s event promises just as many dramatic and meaningful outcomes.
For some players, there is no more that can be done, and their fate is left in the hands of other competing in Hong Kong.
Carlos Del Moral (112), Marc Warren (113) and Markus Brier (115) are all missing this week and within reach of the challengers, while 114th place Damien McGrane, a former European Tour champion, will be hoping for a solid placing this week to consolidate his place within the top 118.
South Africa’s Keith Horne was riding high in eighth place after the third round of his national Open but a final round 73 left him tied for 13th, meaning the Johannesburg resident is the man sitting directly below the crucial 118th place.
However, with Simon Khan (118) exempt for his 2010 BMW PGA Championship victory, and Chilean Mark Tullo (117) and Welshman Philip Price (116) within a few thousand Euros and not competing this week, Horne will know just making the cut could be enough to retain his card for next season.
Meanwhile, Gareth Maybin finished tied for 51st at the Serengeti earning him only €4,500 and leaving the Northern Irishman 120th, while Shiv Kapur of India (121st) didn’t feature last week so will be hoping local knowledge can spur him onto a high placing this week in Hong Kong.
Stephen Dodd of Wales has been a European Tour Member for over ten years and has won three times on Tour, however after withdrawing from the SA Open Championship last week through injury he has slipped a place further back to 123rd and will need to be within the top 15 at the Hong Kong Open to sneak into the top 118.
Oliver Fisher might be a former Ryder Cup hero, but currently sits in 130th place and will need to finish at least eighth – if not higher – to have a chance at retaining his card, meanwhile Ross McGowan, who finished second at the 2009 Dubai World Championship, is at 148th in The 2011 Race to Dubai, and over €100,000 adrift of the vital 118th spot, meaning the Englishman will need to finish third or higher in Hong Kong to avoid a trip to Q-School.
At the business end of proceedings, Rory McIlroy will be hoping a miraculous turn of events can help him overturn the Luke Donald deficit at the top of The Race to Dubai.
The Northern Irishman currently trails Donald by over €1.1m and would need to finish second in Hong Kong and win in Dubai to go ahead of Donald if the Englishman is 44th or worse in Dubai. Alternatively, if the 2011 US Open champion can muster an incredible finish to the season with back-to-back wins then he can take the Number One spot from Donald as long as the BMW PGA Champion finishes outside the top eight in Dubai.
McIlroy knows he faces an uphill task to overtake Donald but is maintaining a positive outlook for as long as there remains a chance.
“Of course it's achievable,” he said. “But I need to win here first to even think about it. So all I can concentrate on is trying to play the best I can here, and if I get myself into a position to win and end up winning, it at least gives me the possibility of going to Dubai and winning The Race to Dubai.”
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