No rest for the rich
Many players in the field this week will enjoy an off-season break of just 10 days before competing in the first official European Tour event of the 2014/15 season, the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa. A short-field event with a US$6.5 million (Dh23.9m) purse, it will draw plenty of prominent players. Other top guns, such as Henrik Stenson, will play in the equally lucrative, short-field Tiger Woods event in Orlando, Florida, staged the same week. Former world No 1 Luke Donald will be making the trip to South Africa, getting an early jump on the 2015 season. “It’s not the money so much as I need to get my 13 starts,” he said of the European Tour tournament minimum to keep his card. The money also means those who play well can get a huge leg up on others, because the purse is so disproportionately large compared to other early European events. “We don’t play for money like that in a regular-tour event over here until we get to [the BMW PGA Championship],” said Craig Connelly, the caddie for Martin Kaymer, the 2012 Nedbank champion. Kaymer, a two-time major winner and world No 1, will be in South Africa, too. The Woods event has 18 players and a purse of US$3.5m, though the money is unofficial.
There was a little more than regular sibling rivalry this week, with the Molinari brothers coming into the season finale ranked 36th and 37th in the year-long standings. Bragging rights went to Francesco, above, though, whose 9-under total meant he finished six shots better than Edoardo. With it he ranked 35 for the season, five spots higher than his older brother. When congratulated on bettering Edoardo, Francesco raised his arms above his head in mock celebration. “No, I’m kidding,” he said. “The last two weeks we’ve been checking the Race to Dubai website, seeing if we could overtake one another. It’s good for me.”
Top 50 relief
Having flirted with making golf’s magical mark for some time, Shane Lowry breathed a rather hefty sigh of relief following a final-round 66 in Dubai. The result not only sealed a fifth-placed finish, but vaulted the Irishman into the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time. With it, the door to all the big 2015 tournaments – the majors and WGCs – opened wide. “I didn’t want to go into Abu Dhabi next year with that hanging over me, as it has done all of the past two years,” Lowry said. “To shoot 66 with all that pressure on me was pretty satisfying. I hope to kick on from here.”
Fitzpatrick set to fly
For Matt Fitzpatrick, 20, the countdown to launch has officially begun. Fitzpatrick is the newest Golf in Dubai player ambassador and the rising English prospect played in a Mena Tour event over the summer before weaving his way through European Tour Qualifying School finals last week in Spain. The 2013 US Amateur champion will make his debut as a European member at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa, which begins on December 11, but will log plenty of time in the UAE, too. Fitzpatrick, a former world No 1 amateur, birdied three of the last six holes in the 108-hole Q-School marathon to secure his card in clutch fashion. He also will play in the Asian Tour’s Dubai Open in two weeks, at the Els Club in Dubai.
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