The year-long Race to Dubai on the European Tour enters its home stretch with the season-ending DP World Tour Championship starting Thursday, with four players still in the hunt to secure the honour of being called Europe’s No1.
The top-60 players after last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge qualify for the DP World Tour Championship, but 56 of them will have to contend for the $8 million tournament, the richest on European Tour schedule outside the majors and World Golf Championships.
With 1,217,175 points for the winner, only No2 Danny Willett, No3 Alex Noren and No4 Rory McIlroy have the chance No2 Danny Willett, No3 Alex Noren and No4 to catch up with Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson.
England’s Willett has the best chance just 299,675 points adrift, but he has been struggling with his form since finishing second in Italy in September third week.
World No 2 and FedEx Cup champion McIlroy is 1,176,414 points behind Stenson and while he has conceded the race to European No 1, the Northern Irishman is keen to defend his title, which he also won in 2012.
"Mathematically I can win the Race to Dubai, but it’s not going to happen," said McIlroy.
"I wouldn’t hold my breath. I think the three guys that are ahead of me are playing very good golf, especially the two Swedes, Henrik (Stenson) and Alex (Noren). Alex with what he's done over the past few weeks; Henrik has had a fantastic year, and so has Danny, obviously.
"So I don’t expect those guys to play badly this week. I’m just concentrating on trying to win the golf tournament and if I can do that, I’ll be very happy."
Willett was hoping his final two sub-70 rounds in Nedbank Challenge would spark his bid to win the Race to Dubai, having finished second last year to McIlroy.
"We’ve got four rounds of golf left in what’s been a pretty long season and slightly different situation to last year, but we still need to win the golf tournament to win the Race to Dubai," said the Masters champion.
"We’re 300,000 points behind Henrik. If we can do what we can control this week and we can win a golf tournament, then nobody can take it away from us."
Noren is coming off a win last week in South Africa, his fourth in last 11 European Tour starts. But the hard-working Swede was taking nothing for granted, starting the week 633,436 points adrift of Stenson.
"Well, it's still a new tournament, new grass, new challenges. Obviously, it’s nice coming in with a victory last week. I always thought it's easier if you have a good week before and you're a little bit more relaxed and enjoying it a lot," said Noren.
"But yeah, it's a new week and you always have your preparation. I’m not focusing too much on results. I am just trying to get my game in shape. I take it as it comes. I've never really been into looking at numbers like that."
Two players who qualified as top-60 for the tournament – Scotland’s Russell Knox and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell – have withdrawn from the field and have been replaced by No61 and 62 France’s Rafael Jacquelin and Chile’s Felipe Aguilar.
The top-10 players at the end of the tournament qualify for the $5 million bonus pool.