McIlroy, Stenson among final 4 as Race to Dubai nears end
ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 15, 2016 09:27 AM
Henrik Stenson of Sweden blast out of bunker on the six green during the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa,Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer
The Race to Dubai has reached the final event of the season and four golfers are still in contention to become the European Tour's top player.
Three of them — Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett and Rory McIlroy — have won majors. The other, Alex Noren, is in major-winning form after earning four victories since July.
Stenson, the British Open champion, leads the Race to Dubai standings by almost 300,000 points over Willett, the Masters champion, and 600,000 over Noren.
Should he win the DP World Tour Championship, which starts Thursday, he will be Europe's No. 1 for the second time in four years. He could even finish atop the standings with a top-eight finish, provided Willett doesn't win or finish second and Noren doesn't win.
McIlroy has dropped to fourth place after missing the Turkish Airlines Open and last week's Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, leaving him with an outside chance of winning his fourth Race to Dubai title and his third in three years.
The four-time major winner must win and needs Stenson to finish outside the top 45, Willett to place outside the top five and Noren to fall past the top two.
Noren could be the one to watch.
Ranked No. 704 in January 2015, the Swede woke up Monday as the No. 9 player after winning the Scottish Open, Omega European Masters, the British Masters and the Nedbank Challenge in the space of four months.
It's a remarkable rise that he attributes to being happier following the birth of his first child early this year and spending more time in practice hitting shots on the course rather than at a range.
"Obviously, it's been the season of my life," Noren said.
"I've got a lot more confidence having the lead and being up (there), it's obviously more comfortable."
Stenson played alongside Noren during the final round on Sunday and saw him overturn a six-shot deficit to win by six strokes.
"He's definitely in there in the mix for the last week," Stenson said. "With Alex playing as well as he does, (it) just motivates me even more to bring my game next week and then try and be up there."
Willett has just one top-10 finish on either side of the Atlantic since June and has dropped out of the top 10 in the rankings.
A 67-69 finish at the Nedbank has boosted his confidence going into the World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, where he finished fourth last year.
"The golf course, it doesn't necessarily suit my game," Willett said. "I'm not massive off the tee and I can't take out all the bunkers, but it does reward really good mid-iron play.
"Things we're working on, everything feels better, a little bit more happy going into next week."