Paul McGinley’s bid to make the season ending DP World Tour Championship has received unexpected boost in the form of an invitation to next week’s $7 million BMW Masters in Shanghai.
While he is sponsored by BMW, the Dubliner was not expecting to get into the elite 78-man field at Lake Malaren.
But despite undergoing a minor intervention on a niggling back issue that forced him to pull out of the Portugal Masters just nine days ago, he says he’s feeling “okay” and ready to take advantage of what could be his last chance to qualify for the season-ending finale in the Dubai.
Ranked 81st in the Race to Dubai standings, the 45-year old Ryder Cup captaincy candidate is €123,377 outside the top 60 who will make the trip to the desert from November 22-25.
Only a win in Shanghai would get McGinley into the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in two weeks and he will struggle to get into the Barclays Singapore Open or the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Seeking his first win since the 2005 Volvo Masters, McGinley would need to finish at least 11th in Shanghai to move into the top 60 on the money list.
As for the tournament favourites, all eyes will be on world No 1 Rory McIlroy, who returns to the scene of his victory in the unofficial Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters last year.
Pádraig Harrington has withdrawn to play in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda as a late replacement for the injured Ernie Els. But there will still be a strong Irish presence in the inaugural event, which features 14 players from the Chinese Order of Merit, four ‘wilcards’ - McGinley, John Daly, Henrik Stenson and José María Olazábal - and six of the world’s top 20.
World No 3 Luke Donald, No 4 Lee Westwood and No 5 Justin Rose head the list alongide Louis Oosthuizen and Ian Poulter with Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Shane Lowry completing the four-strong Irish contingent.
The winner on the 72-hole, no cut event will take home $1,166,660 with the man finishing 78th getting $7,300 for his trouble.
McIlroy is keen to become just the second player since Donald last year to officially top the money list on both sides of the Atlantic.
But while he cannot be caught in America, he is just €437,334 clear of Rose with five events of the European season remaining.
“I would like to give Rory a bit of a run for the Race to Dubai,” Rose said after beating Westwood in the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final exhibition in Turkey eight days ago.
“He’s got a bit of a lead on me and is playing a lot of golf now so he’s going to be tough to catch, but if I can continue to push the top end of the leaderboard I will give myself a chance and that will be fun.”
Westwood is more than €1.4 m behind McIlroy and 11th in the Race to Dubai standings but he still reckons he can give the Holywood star a run for his money if he wins in Shanghai or the following week’s HSBC Champions at Mission Hills
“I have five massive tournaments left and if I can play well for a couple of weeks in China and then in Dubai then I might have a sniff of the Order of Merit,” Westwood said in Turkey. “I’ve only won twice this year so I would like to win more before the year is out.”
McIlroy finished second in the Race to Dubai in 2009 and last year, bowing to Westwood and Donald respectively. But he’s determined not to let the money title escape him this year.
“The big goal is just to keep my level (of play) up and try to win the Race to Dubai,” McIlroy said. “I have a bit of a lead at the minute.
“I have come close twice before and if I can win it this time it would be a great way to cap off a great season.”
Lowry, who rose to world No 74 thanks to his win in the Portugal Masters and a top five finish in China would ease him closer to his goal of finishing the season as a member of the world’s top 50.
McGinley, meanwhile, will head from Shanghai to Ghana to work on a course redesign project. If he fails to get into Kong Open, he will remain in Africa for the SA Open.
Providing he fails to make the DP World Tour Championship, he will remain in Africa to contest the Nelson Mandela and Alfred Dunhill championships at the start of December.