DP World Tour Championship offers curtain call for Race to Dubai winner Rory McIlroy

With Race to Dubai title already clinched, Rory McIllroy gets off the couch -- eh, the driving range -- for the last Final Series tournament where he will meet another star-studded field, reports Steve Elling.

After a six-week lay-off, world No 1 Rory McIlroy has spent the last 10 days in Dubai preparing for the DP World Tour Championship, which starts Thursday. Pawan Singh / The National
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DUBAI // Rory McIlroy would like to correct an incorrect public perception. According to growing legend and lore, he clinched this season’s Race to Dubai title last weekend, while seated on his sofa.

On the contrary, he said on Tuesday, that assertion is only halfway true.

“I was probably on the range,” he said, cracking a smile.

Smirks aside, the reality is that, as the European Tour begins one of its richest, most-heralded weeks of the season at the DP World Championship, McIlroy’s stellar play over the summer turned the season-long competition into a coronation ­procession.

In a sense, the season finale lost its finality.

The event’s delicious double whammy – a top-tier tournament conjoined with the crowning of the season’s points champion – was halved when McIlroy clinched the latter while practising on a driving range in Dubai on Sunday night.

In fact, after staking himself to what proved an insurmountable lead, the world No 1 skipped the first three legs of the four-tournament Final Series, yet still enters this week with a cushion of 2.73 million points.

For the purposes of drama, it does not exactly help sell tickets for Jumeirah Golf Estates.

“I’m happy to spoil the party,” McIlroy said. “It works just fine for me.”

It might suggest to others that the points system, which received a comprehensive makeover this season after debuting to mostly cruel reviews in 2013, needs yet another overhaul.

“I think there’s still tweaking to be done on it, but not a lot,” said Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who scored the clinching point for Europe at the Ryder Cup two months ago.

“I don’t know whether it’s spot on right yet, but it’s not far off.”

The US PGA Tour’s similarly styled FedEx Cup series has its critics, too. In an almost impossible balancing act, the US circuit stages a cumulative points race, then resets the ledger for its four late-season play-off events.

Whether that path is best is a matter of mixed opinion, but it effectively ensures that the seasonal title is not decided until the finale.

Skipping the first three events of the Final Series and still clinching the title suggests something is amiss.

Last year, the Euro tour required players to compete in two of the first three events in the Final Series and three prominent players staged a very vocal boycott of the DP World event.

Ernie Els called the rule “farcical” and “an absolute joke”. It was rescinded this spring.

“I’m reading things like, ‘Rory, he’s just won the Race to Dubai sitting on the couch this weekend’,” McIlroy said yesterday.

“You’ve got to remember the first 12 months of the season, where I actually did play and I played very well.”

Formula One is dealing with comparable issues with its new double-points climax this week at Yas Marina Circuit, where Nico Rosberg can pass Lewis Hamilton as the seasonal points champion, despite winning half as many races.

“I don’t think their whole season should be decided on one race with the double points,” McIlroy said. “It makes it exciting at the end of the season, it makes it exciting for the fans. But I’m sure Lewis doesn’t think it’s that exciting right now.”

Some have a problem with the diminished storyline. Some do not.

“I guess for the fans and stuff, it’s nice if it goes down to the last tournament,” Sergio Garcia said.

“But on the other hand, I’m also a big believer in that if you have done something extraordinary to be able to achieve that, to win before the last tournament happens, why shouldn’t you be the winner?”

Former Race to Dubai champion Lee Westwood, who like Garcia and McIlroy has played in the FedEx Cup series, said the European circuit does not need to replicate the American model. Far from it.

“If you look at Rory’s season, he’s won two major championships, a World Golf Championship and our flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, which is a phenomenal year,” Westwood said. “If you put that up in somebody’s career, those four tournaments that would make a good career, and Rory’s achieved that in six months, ­basically.

“I have no problems with the Race to Dubai being over before the final event, given this year with what Rory has done.”

On merit alone, the 60-player DP World tournament is arguably the best on the European schedule and regularly draws the tour’s most talent-steeped field in per-capita depth.

“It’s still a massive tournament,” Donaldson said.

Now it becomes a matter of how many pieces of shiny chrome McIlroy, a former DP World and Race to Dubai winner, hoists after the final round.

The other maths has been ­settled.

“I want to pick two trophies up on the 18th green on Sunday, instead of one,” he said.

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