SHANGHAI - Rory McIlroy is hoping to use his appearance at the WGC HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai this week as a stepping stone towards winning the European Tour’s 2011 Race to Dubai.
The 22-year-old Northern Irishman is currently 1,302,823 euros ($1.78 million) behind money list leader Luke Donald, who is on course to become the first player to win both the U.S. and European money lists in the same year.
However, the world number one has opted against playing in Shanghai, instead staying home in Chicago, where his American wife Diane is expecting to give birth to their second child in the next two weeks.
McIlroy sees the U.S. PGA order of merit champion’s absence along with the 842,217 euro winner’s prize on offer as an opportunity to end a year which has already seen him claim a first major at the U.S. Open on an even higher note.
“I am 1.3 million euros behind Luke,” McIlroy said, fresh from a $2 million win at last week’s non-sanctioned Shanghai Master that did not count towards any money list.
“But I have got three big events coming up. I have got this week, the Hong Kong Open and the Dubai World Championship. So three more chances to really try to cut into his lead.
“With him not being here this week because his wife is giving birth to their second child, I feel like I have got a chance.
“It would be fantastic to get another win, the second in two weeks and cut into that lead. It would be fantastic if I could get a littler closer to him.”
Accompanying McIlroy around the Sheshan International course will be Danish girlfriend and world number one tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, who will be watching him play a tournament for the first time.
During his news conference, McIlroy cleverly dodged a question about whether the couple had started making any marriage plans.
On a day of heavy rain he joked: “It’s great to have Caroline here. This is the first time she’s at a golf tournament but if the weather keeps going like this, it might be the last one she is at as well.”
McIlroy was, however, more forthcoming about his plans to displace Donald at the top of the money list.
“I obviously have not had as good a season as Luke because he has been the most consistent golfer in the world for probably the best part of 18 months,” McIlroy added.
“But if I can give it my all and really give it a good go for the next few weeks and even just run him close, I think that would be a good achievement in itself.”
McIlroy also accepted that with the season’s three other major winners -- Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke and Keegan Bradley -- in the 78-strong field, he might not make as much of a dent in Donald’s advantage on Sunday than he would like.