Graeme McDowell is not only fighting Henrik Stenson for the European number one title, but he is equally determined to unseat the Swede to be voted European Tour ‘Player of the Year’.
While McDowell won three times prior to the British Open, Stenson has easily been the best performing player since finishing runner-up at Muirfield.
The Swede was also third in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, runner-up in the following week’s PGA Championship and then proceeded to capture the Deutsche Bank Championship and seal the FedEx Cup trophy by winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta. However, the Swede’s two victories that led to FedEx Cup glory were on the PGA Tour and it is McDowell’s goal this week not only to overtake Stenson in the sprint to the Race to Dubai final ribbon but also seal ‘European Player of the Year’ honours.
The European Tour ‘Player of the Year’ is voted upon by golf journalists reporting regularly on the Tour and is usually announced mid-December at a luncheon hosted by the Tour at Lancaster House in London.
McDowell shared Player of the Year honours three years ago with Martin Kaymer, and it is the only time since the first award in 1985 the vote was even.
“If I were to win the Race to Dubai it would certainly throw me in the running for Player of the Year, and that is just one of the many kind of boxes that would sort of tick off if I was able to get the win done this week,” said McDowell.
“Henrik might be a difficult guy to overshadow in the Player of the Year category. He’s certainly my Player of the Year at the minute. But I would like to get in his way this weekend. Maybe not from a physical point of view, as he’s a big guy, but from a golfing point of view. So I would certainly like to try and get in his way come Sunday afternoon and have the opportunity myself to win the Race to Dubai.”
For McDowell to win the Race to Dubai he simply needs to win the DP World Tour Championship. If McDowell finishes second then Stenson needs to finish outside of third and if McDowell is third then the Swede must finish lower than 24th. And McDowell has an extra special reason to do well in Dubai as it was a year ago he surprised his wife, Kristin in getting down on one knee to propose to her on the helipad of the stunning 7-star Burj Al Arab hotel.
“The ring finger still feels like I’ve got six fingers on there at the minute, and I’m still getting comfortable with that, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.
McDowell will play the opening round in the company of Ian Poulter while Shane Lowry, who is 35th on the Race to Dubai, will play alongside the 34th ranked Pablo Larrazabal of Spain. The normal field of Europe’s top-60 has been cut by four players with Ernie Els (17th on the Race to Dubai) electing not to play, fellow South African Charl Schwartzel (22nd) who did not qualify in playing just one of the opening three Final Series events. Spain’s Sergio Garcia (13th) also only contested on event of the last four and Sweden’s Alex Noren (51st) has withdrawn with a back injury.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved