Rory McIlroy and Leona Maguire may be separated by eight time zones for this week’s end-of-season tournament play – one in Dubai, the other in Florida – but the two will have similar goals in aiming to close out the playing year by winning their respective tour championships.
In McIlroy’s case, he heads into the DP World Tour Championship in pole position to add the European Tour’s order of merit to the FedEx Cup title he has already won on the PGA Tour. McIlroy holds a narrow 128 points lead over New Zealand’s Ryan Fox on the leaderboard, while US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick is in third 999 points adrift.
In effect, it will be a two-man duel between McIlroy, who hasn’t played since winning the CJ Cup on the PGA Tour last month, and Fox although – with an enhanced 2,000 points to the winner – Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood, winner of the Nedbank in Sun City on Sunday, are also still in the equation.
“I’ve still got some work to do,” said Fox of chasing down McIlroy, adding: “He’s the number one player in the world for a reason. I’ll just go out, try to beat the golf course and see what happens. I’m looking forward to it being in my hands a bit going into [Dubai].”
McIlroy moved back to the world number one position after his CJ Cup win and will remain at the top of the world rankings whatever the outcome in Dubai this week. However, his form line – 1st-2nd-4th-4th-1st – in his last five appearances stateside indicate that the Northern Irishman is well poised to complete the double of FedEx Cup and DP World Tour titles.
The limited field championship in Dubai has a lineup of 50 players, after Will Zalatoris (injured), Collin Morikawa and Thomas Pieters declined to take up their places.
Shane Lowry, also in the field, and playing for the first time since the CJ Cup, is currently sixth in the Race to Dubai standings. This tournament won’t be his last outing of the year, as he is due to make his debut in the Hero World Challenge, hosted by Tiger Woods, which takes place in the Bahamas in the first week of December.
In Maguire’s case, her appearance in the big-money LPGA Tour’s season-ending CME Globe Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, reaffirms her position among the game’s elite. Unlike the situation in Dubai, however, each of the 60 players who have qualified for the LPGA Tour Championship has a chance to claim the $1.5 million winner’s cheque.
Maguire qualified in 17th position on the order of merit but, following the Pelican Championship won by Nelly Korda on Sunday, all points have been wiped out so that all competitors in the field are on an equal playing ground for the official money purse and first-place prize. Maguire’s tied-10th finish in the Pelican was her seventh top-10 finish of the season.
Stephanie Meadow, however, failed to make the field for the Tour Championship but can still reflect on a very good season which featured two top-10s and her final position of 81st on the order of merit secures a strong card for next season.
On the PGA Tour, Séamus Power – who remains at the top of the FedEx Cup standings despite taking a week off and skipping the Houston Open where Tony Finau triumphed – is in the field for the RSM Classic at Sea Island in Georgia, a tournament that will mark closure on what has been another fine season during which he has moved into the world’s top-30.
Finau’s win in Houston moved him from 15th to 12th in the world rankings and means he is the top-ranked player in the RSM. Yet the vagaries of the new world ranking system means that the RSM has more world ranking points on offer than the DP World Tour Championship (where three players from the top-10 – McIlroy (1), Jon Rahm (5) and Fitzpatrick (9) – are playing).