The European Tour heads to its end-of-season finale in Dubai with an exhausted world number one hoping to rediscover his touch after failing to fire in Hong Kong.
Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez, one of the vice-captains on the victorious European Ryder Cup team, triumphed at the $2 million UBS Hong Kong Open on Sunday for a third time -- at the tender age of 48 years and 318 days.
But it was a different story for pre-tournament favourite and defending champion Rory McIlroy who was by then already sunning himself on a Dubai beach after failing to make the cut in Hong Kong.
The Northern Irishman’s girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, posted a photograph on Twitter of him dozing on the sand. He had said in Hong Kong that he felt “lethargic”.
McIlroy has already won the Race to Dubai -- the European money list -- after topping the PGA Tour money list. But he admitted after tumbling out of the Hong Kong Open that he was badly in need of some rest.
“If I was completely fresh I wouldn’t have been making the mistakes I was making out there,” he said after his disappointing two-day five-over-par score at Fanling spelled an early end to his Hong Kong tournament. it was the second time this year the 23-year old has had to sit out the weekend rounds in the defense of a tournament after also missing the cut in June's U.S. Open at San Francisco.
“I'm not sure if the energy in trying to sew-up the Race to Dubai and competing in the FedEx Cup has taken more out of me than maybe I thought, because while I am feeling OK physically, mentally I feel really tired,” he said.
“When you achieve something that you want to achieve so bad, like the Race to Dubai, there is a letdown considering there are still two events remaining.”
McIlroy has vowed to cut back his competitive schedule next year.
“Of course, you're going to miss cuts in your career, but it's not nice and it's a tough pill to swallow when you're the defending champion in a tournament,” the Northern Irishman said.
“While there's a part of me that perhaps wished my year had ended as soon as I wrapped up the Race to Dubai, I now look back over the last couple of years wondering why did I stretch myself so much,” he added. “I've probably played an extra couple of tournaments too much and I have learnt from the last few years, so that's why I'm cutting back my schedule even further from next year.”
Counting this week's European Tour closing event, McIlroy will have played in 24 tournaments this season as well as the Ryder Cup and teeing up in two exhibition tournaments — the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final and the recent showdown against Tiger Woods in the 'Duel at Lake Jinsha'.
McIlroy teed it up in 28 tournaments in his first full pro season in 2008, and then cut that by three a year later. Last year, he competed in 22 regular European and PGA Tour events, but also contested the Grand Slam of Golf, the World Cup, the Korean Open and joined three others competing over seven days on seven courses in the China Golf Challenge.
After combined European and PGA Tour earnings this year of $9,618,210, McIlroy will bank another $1 million by just teeing up in Dubai - the “bonus pool” first prize for capturing the Race to Dubai.
The leading 10 Race to Dubai finishers at the close of the $8 million World Tour Championship which starts Thursday will share an additional purse of $3.75 million.
McIlroy leads a stellar field of 57 players this week. There have been three dropouts - Thomas Bjorn, Ross Fisher and Retief Goosen.
Bjorn has had a recurrence of his neck injury, Fisher decided to stay back in the US where he has made it to the final stage of the qualifying school, while Goosen has still not started playing after his back surgery in August.
(Files from AFP and the Associated Press were used in this report)
THIS WEEK IN GOLF
EUROPEAN TOUR - DP WORLD TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
COURSE: Jumeirah Golf Estates, Earth Course (7,675 yards, par 72).
PURSE: $8 million. Winner's share: $1,333,560.
TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Thursday-Sunday, 3-8 a.m., 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 6:30-11:30 p.m.).
NOTES: All 12 members of the winning European Ryder Cup team - Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Nicolas Colsaerts, Sergio Garcia, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, Graeme McDowell and Francesco Molinari - are in the 57-player field. ... The top-ranked McIlroy has already won the money title to match Donald's feat of sweeping the PGA Tour and European lists. ...Donald finished third last year to become the first player to win the PGA Tour and European Tour money titles in the same season. ...South Africa's Branden Grace is looking to add to his season-high four Tour victories.
COURSE: LPGA International Champions Course (6,480 yards, Par 72)
OH CANADA: Stephanie Sherlock, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Danielle Mills, Izzy Beisiegel