Edoardo Molinari may never experience a weekend as glorious as the past one, even if his blossoming career spans another 20 years. The Italian had so many reasons to celebrate after his fantastic finish to the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles on Sunday.
He was suitably rewarded with a wild-card selection by Colin Montgomerie, Europe's Ryder Cup captain, for a closing sequence of three birdies that swept him to his ninth tournament victory. And he awoke yesterday to discover he is a serious contender in the second running of the lucrative Race to Dubai. Two months after he made his European Tour breakthrough with a three-stroke victory in the Scottish Open, the elder of the Molinari brothers made even more significant progress towards claiming a substantial share of the bounty on offer at Jumeirah Golf Estates at the end of the season.
The ?282,000 (Dh1.3 million) that Molinari, 29, collected for sweeping past Australia's Brett Rumford down the closing stretch propelled him to seventh place in the Race for Dubai. The Race will culminate with the Dubai World Championship on the Greg Norman-designed Earth Course on November 25-28. Molinari's leap forward inflicts a further blow on Paul Casey, the Englishman whom he denied a Ryder Cup wild card through his Gleneagles victory.
Casey, who is competing in the FedEx play-offs in the United States and is therefore not accumulating order-of-merit euros, drops to ninth with Ian Poulter, another Englishman on the dollar trail, slipping a place to eighth. Both will continue to lose ground during the FedEx programme, along with Rory McIlroy, the young Irishman who challenged LeeWestwood for the main prize last year. Miguel Angel Jimenez, the Spanish veteran who abandoned plans to attend his nephew's wedding in order to secure his Ryder Cup place with an appearance in Scotland, makes up the Race's top 10 after his tied third place behind Molinari.
With decent prize money on offer, up to and including the US$7.5m (Dh27.5m) Dubai World Cup, there is plenty of time for Molinari and those clustered around him to make up the leeway on Germany's Martin Kaymer who claimed the race leadership by virtue of his maiden major victory in the recent US PGA Championship. Kaymer is one of three European Tour members to have captured a major this year - Phil Mickelson's Masters triumph in April prevented a clean sweep - and all three of those champions are therefore well placed to take the $1.5m first prize in the race.
Graeme McDowell, who made his major breakthrough in the US Open, is the nearest challenger to Kaymer, having earned ?2.05m since the Race began at the end of last year. Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who turned the British Open championship at St Andrews into a procession last month, occupies sixth place, fractionally ahead of the resurgent Molinari and just behind his compatriots Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel.
Westwood, who continues to be troubled by a calf injury which is considered mildly threatening to his Ryder Cup availability, has managed to hang on to third place despite his earnings stalling over the last few weeks. Westwood, fitness permitting, is seeking a repeat of the big-money double he recorded in the UAE last year, the Englishman romping to a six-shot victory in the Dubai World Cup, which meant he held on to the race lead and earned a combined prize of $2.75m.
That 23-under-par masterclass by Westwood confirmed him as the European Tour's order of merit winner for the second time in his career. The enormous Dubai World Cup prize fund means the Race is again likely to be settled in Dubai. Any player who has so far earned more than ?1m cannot be ruled out and that list goes down to the younger Molinari brother, Francesco, who is in 17th position. Francesco Molinari's first objective will be to climb into the top 15 on the money list; all on the list qualify for a share of the bonus pool which helps make up the $7.5m race prize fund. That privileged group is currently completed by Spain's Alvaro Quiros who has amassed seasonal earnings of ?1.1m. Sixty players will eventually take part in the Dubai tournament and, like last year, competition is intensifying around the cut-off mark. Robert-Jan Derksen, the Dutchman who tasted success here in the 2003 Dubai Desert Classic, is clinging on to the last-man-in spot by only ?200 from Ignacio Garrido of Spain. email@example.com
Golfer Country Earnings 1. Kaymer Germany ?2,254,400 2. McDowell N Ireland ?2,055,917 3. Westwood England ?1,822,738 4. Els S Africa ?1,771,118 5. Schwartzel S Africa ?1,694,738