Luke Donald and Rory McIlory are battling to win the 2011 Race to Dubai
McIlroy needs to win in Dubai and hope No. 1 Donald finishes worse than ninth
Donald is bidding to become the first player to top both PGA and Europe money lists
Tournament is worth $7.5 million with a further $7.5 million bonus pool up for grabs
The European Tour season will come to an end in Dubai this weekend, with golf’s top two players going head-to-head in an attempt to finish top of the money list for 2011.
World No. 1 Luke Donald and fellow British star Rory McIlroy will do battle at the Dubai World Championship, the $7.5 million season-ending climax to the Race to Dubai.
Donald is bidding to become the first player to finish a season top of both the European and United States PGA Tour money lists, while McIlroy will want to add gloss to a year which saw him clinch his first major at June’s U.S. Open, a feat that still eludes Donald.
Here is CNN’s guide to the tournament at Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Earth Course, which tees off on Thursday:
Who finishes top?
Having already wrapped up the PGA Tour money list, Donald looked a certainty to secure a historic double until recently.
The Englishman remains in the driving seat but McIlroy’s superb end-of-season form, culminating in Sunday’s Hong Kong Open win, means the Northern Irishman can still overtake his Ryder Cup teammate.
For McIlroy to finish top, he must win on Sunday. Even then the odds are stacked in Donald’s favor as he needs only to finish ninth, should McIlroy win, to end 2011 top of the pile.
How much is it worth?
As well as a $7.5 million tournament prize fund, there is another $7.5 million bonus fund that will be shared out between the top 15 players in the Race to Dubai, with the winner receiving a $1.5 million cut.
Donald has won a whopping €3,856,394 ($5.166 million) in European Tour events this season, while McIlroy has €3,066,606 ($4.106 million) to his name.
However, clinching the first prize of €922,645 will lift McIlroy up to $5.347 million, meaning anything up to ninth place – which would take Donald onto $5.354 million – is good enough for the current leader.
Remarkably, should Donald share ninth place with one other player, he will finish ahead of McIlroy by just $7!
Richer than America?
No… The big money is still to be won across the Atlantic.
The 20th player in the Race To Dubai is South African Thomas Aiken, who has won $1.342 million this year.
Aiken’s equivalent on the PGA Tour money list is Australian Aaron Baddeley, who collected $3.094 million as he finished 20th this season.
Donald has hoovered up $6.683 million from 19 PGA Tour events this season – with more than $2.9 million of that also counting on the European list as it came from co-sanctioned tournaments such as the four majors and the World Golf Championships series.
A big chunk of his solely European earnings came in the €750,000 he won for triumphing at the tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship at headquarters in Wentworth, England in May which took him to the top of the rankings for the first time in his career.
Donald then took home €550,000 for winning the Scottish Open, his first tournament as the 15th No. 1 in golf’s rankings history.
Even if he was to win the Dubai showpiece, the 34-year-old’s European prize fund would still be less than his earnings from the United States.
The Dubai World Championship is only open to the top 60 players in the Race to Dubai. However, Justin Rose and Fredrik Jacobson have both pulled out, leaving 58 players to battle it out for victory.
But the sheer consistency of Donald’s form this season indicates he is likely to get the top-nine placing he needs, regardless of what McIlroy achieves in Dubai.
In just 12 European Tour events, six fewer than McIlroy, Donald has had three wins, two seconds, a fourth, a sixth, an eighth, a ninth, an 11th, a 45th at the U.S. Open and a missed cut at the British Open.
And McIlroy – who was overhauled by Lee Westwood in 2009 after leading the inaugural Race to Dubai going into the final event – has admitted that he is feeling fatigued this week.
A virus has sent his white blood cell count “very low” and McIlroy told reporters he is awaiting the results of tests, after visiting a doctor on his arrival from Hong Kong.
“My energy levels are not exactly where I would want them to be, but I took a day off yesterday and took it easy,” he said.
Either way, there will be a new Race to Dubai winner, after Westwood took the honors with victory in Dubai two years ago and Germany’s Martin Kaymer – third in the current standings but unable to beat Donald – finished on top in 2010.