SHANGHAI: Rory McIlroy has skipped the BMW Masters starting on Thursday (Friday in Manila) but will still be keeping one eye firmly on the scores from Shanghai knowing that his status as Europe’s number one is hanging by a thread.
World number six Justin Rose is one of five players who could topple McIlroy from the top spot in the Race to Dubai standings at Lake Malaren, the final stop before the season-ending DP World Tour Championship next week.
Second-placed Danny Willett, after his fourth-round 62 and third place in the $8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions across the city last weekend, is just 74,213 points adrift and needs only to finish 28th or higher to overtake McIlroy at the top of the Race to Dubai standings.
Shane Lowry, Louis Oost-huizen, Rose and Branden Grace also have the chance to knock four-time major champion McIlroy off his perch, with the first three players each needing to finish second or better to move into the number one spot, while only victory would be good enough for sixth-placed Grace.
McIlroy won the Race to Dubai last year and in 2012 but may find by Sunday night he needs nothing less than a win in Dubai to win his third Harry Vardon trophy.
The world number three is determined to give himself every chance by arriving early in the Middle East after skipping the second Shanghai event this week.
“I’ll get to Dubai next weekend, so I’ll be there a few days early,” McIlroy told AFP after his final round 66 at Sheshan International Golf Club on Sunday left him in a tie for 11th place in the World Golf Championships event.
“I’m just with the mindset that I need to go to Dubai and win and whatever happens from there hope it will be enough, that’s all I can do,” said McIlroy.
Rose is gunning for double glory on Chinese soil following his win last month in the Hong Kong Open.
He knows victory this week on a course which he plays well — he missed out on a three-man playoff by one stroke here a year ago — and the 1,333,330 points that go with it will put his destiny into his own hands.
“I’m about 800,000 points behind Rory and Danny, so I’m going to have to win one of these last two tournaments,” Rose said before playing in Tuesday’s pro-am.
“I think if I win one of them and play solid in the other then I’m hard to beat.
“If I go win-win then I’m unbeatable, so it’s in my hands, which is the good thing.”
Further down the rankings there is an equally intense scrap going on to get into the top 60 and qualify for the riches on offer in Dubai — $8 million in prize money and a bonus pool of $7.5 million to be split among the top 15 in the final Race to Dubai standings.
Trevor Fisher Jnr, in his first full campaign on the European Tour, is 65th at the moment and needs to finish at least 45th or better in the 78-man field to secure his spot in the season finale.
“I need to treat this week the same as any other,” said the 36-year-old South African.
“With there being no cut you can get a little comfortable, so I will make sure I treat this as a normal event. I have to put my head down and work.”