This is the time of the year when players get picky with their tournament dates and, for Rory McIlroy, after a stint in Europe where he played three of four weeks and strengthened his position on top of the Race to Dubai order of merit rankings, it’ll be a case of job well done (despite failing to win) and of taking a fortnight’s break.
McIlroy’s next outing will be his defence of The CJ Cup on the PGA Tour on October 20th-23rd, after which he will then turn his sights back on the European Tour and target the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai when he will bid to add that title to the Tour Championship/FedEx Cup which he claimed stateside.
Although the Northern Irishman remains world number two behind Scottie Scheffler, his run of 2nd-4th-4th in his three tournaments in Europe reaffirmed a form line through 2022 that has been hugely impressive. In 19 tournaments played worldwide, McIlroy claimed two wins, two runners-up finishes, two third places and a further six inside the top-10 with only one missed cut in all that time.
The results from the BMW PGA-Italian Open-Dunhill Links stretch of events enabled him to consolidate his place atop the Race to Dubai standings with almost a 1,000-point cushion over Matt Fitzpatrick in second place, while Ryan Fox’s win in the Dunhill enabled the Kiwi to move from seventh to third in the updated tables. As a consequence, Shane Lowry dropped one place, from sixth to seventh.
Fox’s win in the Dunhill also saw him move from 47th to a career best 25th in the world rankings, effectively sealing an invitation to play in next year’s Masters at Augusta National.
“I certainly hope that’s the case, that’s one Major I haven’t ticked off yet so that would be pretty cool to get that [invitation] in the mail. When I started this year I was well outside the top-200 in the world, so even to be talking about going to the Masters is pretty incredible,” said Fox, who also has McIlroy and Fitzpatrick in his sights heading to Dubai.
As he put it: “After the good run I had in the middle of the year, that was always the goal, to give myself a chance going into Dubai. Obviously a couple of good players on that ranking list, so I’ll have to do something even more special to get ahead of those guys. But just to be in the mix is pretty good.”
Lowry, like McIlroy, intends to take a two-week break from competitive play and will also return to tournament duty at the CJ Cup which takes place at Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina.
As of now, Séamus Power is also on target to make a debut appearance in the DP World Tour Championship – he is currently 46th in the rankings – but the Waterford man’s focus for now is on the PGA Tour and, following a tied-30th finish in the Sanderson Farms, which marked his first appearance in over five weeks, he is again in action this week in the Shriners Children’s Open at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas on what is effectively home turf.
This week’s tour stop on the European circuit is the Spanish Open at Club de Campo in Madrid where Jon Rahm, the world number six, is the headline act. Rahm will also be looking to add points to his Race to Dubai standings (he is currently 18th).
There are five Irish players in the field in Madrid, all of them desperately needing significant points in their respective quests to retain tour cards for next season: Jonathan Caldwell, Cormac Sharvin, Niall Kearney, Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan.
On the LPGA Tour, Stephanie Meadow – after a tied-44th finish in the Ascendant, where England’s Charley Hull triumphed – is in the field for this week’s Mediheal Championship in California. Leona Maguire is due to return to action at the BMW Ladies in South Korea later this month.