WORLD NUMBER ONE Rory McIlroy is banking on a strong showing at China’s BMW Masters as he bids to match Luke Donald’s historic end-of-year achievement in topping the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.
McIlroy, who won his second major at the US PGA Championship in August, leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings and the US PGA Tour’s money list with just a handful of tournaments remaining in 2012.
But the 23-year-old Northern Irishman will face a strong challenge in the $7 million tournament starting tomorrow from a stellar field including three of the world’s top five players — Englishmen Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose.
Donald, a former world number one, became the first player ever to top both money lists in a single season last year.
McIlroy is nearly $2 million ahead of the missing Tiger Woods in the United States but things are tighter in Europe, with only around €800,000 separating McIlroy from South African Branden Grace in third spot. Rose is second.
The huge purse on offer this week means a good showing is essential for all three.
“I have finished second in the Race to Dubai two of the last three years so I would like to knock that off and try and do what Luke (Donald) did last year and win the money on both Tours,” said McIlroy, who won on the same Shanghai course last year when it was an invitational event. It is now sanctioned by the European Tour.
“I’ve got Justin and Branden right behind me and there are still some big-money events still to play.
“So I’ve four events left and if I do play well in those four events hopefully I can achieve that goal. I’ll be giving it my all this week.”
“It’s going to be tough but I’m going to give it my best and hopefully have a chance going into Sunday,” added McIlroy, who won last month’s BMW Championship, part of the US PGA Tour’s FedExCup Playoffs.
World number four Westwood said the quality of the field at the Lake Malaren Golf Club made it a special event.
“It’s very rare that you get four of the top five in the world together in tournaments outside major championships and World Golf Championships,” said Westwood.
“At the top level you like to compete against the best players in the world and when you win those tournaments it obviously means a little bit more,” added the English former world number one.
The field also includes major winners Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke from Northern Ireland, Germany’s Martin Kaymer, South African pair Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, and Korea’s Y.E. Yang.
McIlroy has been drawn to play the opening two rounds with Westwood and Rose in a mouthwatering match-up.