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Rory McIlroy has sights still set on Race to Dubai win

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy has not given up hope of winning a fourth Race to Dubai title despite facing a massive deficit to Open champion Francesco Molinari.

McIlroy is almost two million points behind Molinari and needs to win at least one of the remaining two events to overhaul the Italian, who enjoys a lead of just over one million points from Ryder Cup partner and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy has twice won the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai but has not played in this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge since 2009, when he was forced to withdraw after two rounds with a stomach virus.

Victory at Sun City would at least take the Northern Irishman to second on the money list and see him paired with Molinari for the opening round in Dubai, where players tee off in Race to Dubai order.

“I’m coming here with the goal that if I can get into that final group on Thursday with Frankie next week, that would be a good start,” said McIlroy, who has not won a European Tour event since the 2016 Irish Open.

“I can’t look too far ahead, but if I can do what I need to do this week, leapfrog a few guys and get into that final pair on Thursday, that would be a huge step.

“I’m going to need some great golf over the next two weeks, but we’ll see what happens this week.

“I feel like my game is in pretty good shape. I didn’t play great in China but I’ve had a week off and (have been) just sort of reflecting on things. Hopefully I can get off to a good start this week.”

McIlroy won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March, but has also played in the last group in the final round six times in 2018 — including in the Masters and Tour Championship — without claiming more silverware.

“I’ve played good golf, I’ve played consistent golf, and I’ve played in six final groups this year but I haven’t had a win out of any of those final groups,” McIlroy added.

“I think I played in four final groups in the previous two years combined, so it’s better.

“It’s progressing, but I probably let a few slip through my fingers in terms of tournaments won. Dubai earlier this year, Wentworth a little bit, and the Masters obviously. There’s a few I feel like I could have challenged a bit more for.

“But overall it’s been a consistent year. I’ve improved my world ranking since the start of the year and I have a chance to get back into the top five this week and next week, and it would be a solid year.

“It wouldn’t have been the year that I would have envisioned at the start but you’re not going to have those years every single year that you play. All I can do is just keep practising and working hard and hopefully the results come.”

Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth finds himself below Tiger Woods in the world rankings for the first time since August 2014 ahead of this week’s Mayakoba Golf Classic.

At the end of 2017, Spieth was the reigning Open champion and ranked second in the world, while Woods had played one event in his latest comeback and was a lowly 656th.

However, despite not playing competitively since the Ryder Cup, Woods is ranked 13th in the world and one place ahead of Spieth, who fell to 14th after a tie for 55th at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.

“It (Las Vegas) was a good trial run for what I was working on the last couple of weeks. I can make adjustments to it,” Spieth said.

“I’d like to get in contention and get the nerves pumping and see what that leads to. Whether it leads to a win, or even if it doesn’t, learning then how to make up for whatever is a little bit off as we go into 2019.”

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