Rory McIlroy will be the man with a bullseye on his back in the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
The Ulsterman’s runner up finish behind Gregory Bourdy in the Hong Kong Open - his fourth second place finish in 14 months - helped him leapfrog Lee Westwood and go to the top of the Race to Dubai rankings.
With Westwood finishing tied 54th at Fanling, McIlroy leads by €128,173 heading to the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Four players can capture the inaugural Race to Dubai - McIlroy, Westwood, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and England’s Ross Fisher.
If McIlroy, Westwood or Kaymer wins the Dubai World Championship next Sunday, they cannot be caught by any of their challengers.
If Fisher wins, Kaymer would be eliminated but McIlroy or Westwood could become No 1 by finishing second.
If none of the quartet wins, the calculators will be required to sort out the winner.
McIlroy was happy with his week’s work though initially disappointed to three-putt the 17th having got to within a stroke of Bourdy.
McIlroy said: “I am a bit disappointed at the moment, but I have the consolation of going back to the top in The Race to Dubai.
"There is a lot that can go on next week but my goal this week was to win the UBS Hong Kong Open and I have come up just short again. But I gave it my best shot and that is all I can do.
“This is where I wanted to be going into the final tournament. I knew if I put in a good performance there was a good chance (of going back to the top). I am now Number One and in pole position, I suppose.”
Westwood never got to grips with the grainy Hong Kong greens and despite surrendering the lead in the money list, he knows that he can still become No 1 when it counts most.
Westwood said: “It’s in my hands, regardless. The difference between first and second next week in more than the difference between us, so if I win this week, I win The Race to Dubai.”
Ireland will have six players in the Dubai World Championship with McIlroy joined by Padraig Harrington (18th), Graeme McDowell (32nd), Peter Lawrie (43rd), Gareth Maybin (55th) and Damien McGrane (58th) in the top 60 qualifiers.
Darren Clarke finished 61st, missing out on a place in the inaugural Dubai World Championship by little more than €7,000.
Maybin and McGrane skipper Hong Kong but Lawrie clinched his fourth top-10 of the year when he broke 70 all four days in Hong Kong and claimed seventh place.
Lawrie has earned over €100,000 from his last three starts.
McDowell closed with a level par 70 to slip to tied 18th in Hong Kong and looks unlikely to regain his place in the world’s top 50 on Monday.
Ranked 51st starting the week, the Portrush man needs a good result in Dubai to ensure his place in all next season’s majors.
The top 50 in the world on December 31 can make their travel plans early while the top 30 in the money list can wrap up a place in the Open at St Andrews.
McIlroy moved to the top of the Ryder Cup European Points table with Westwood third now behind Simon Dyson, who finished eighth in Hong Kong.