Hong Kong showdown could see Finch seal Dubai spot

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Richard Finch contests the UBS Hong Kong Open this week hoping to clinch a place in the Dubai World Championship for the first time.

The 34-year-old Hull golfer has twice come close to sealing a spot in the lucrative end-of-season event for the top 60 players.

He was edged out two years ago in 64th, and 12 months ago dropped out of the running after a poor finish to the season.

But he tees off in the Far East knowing progression to the weekend and a solid finish will almost certainly ensure he consolidates his position in the top 60 on the Race to Dubai standings and in next week’s elite field.

He is 58th and holds an advantage of three places and 18,000 euros (£14,400) over the chasing pack. Malton’s Simon Dyson, who is 47th on the money list after finishing inside the top 10 last season, is also in action in Hong Kong.

Rory McIlroy and Rhys Davies, Walker Cup team-mates five years ago, are back together for the Northern Irishman’s defence of his Hong Kong Open title – but there the similarity ends for the time being.

While world No 1 McIlroy is celebrating topping the European and American tour money lists amid reports of a new £156m sponsorship deal, every penny could matter to Davies over the coming four days.

The 27-year-old Welshman stands 119th on the Order of Merit and it will be the top 119 who retain their cards come Sunday.

Normally the cut-off point is 115, but past winners John Daly and Liang Wen-chong and affiliate members Martin Laird and Prom Meesawat are excluded from the final analysis.

Even as the event finishes Davies may not know if he faces a return to the qualifying school for several hours.

The South African Open – in which Sheffield’s Neil Cheetham will be competing – also counts and many of those hoping to overtake him are competing there.

Given he was being tipped as a possible Ryder Cup player two years ago, this season has been a huge disappointment for former amateur star Davies.

He has missed five of his last six cuts, but the exception to that was a joint-fifth at the Perth International four weeks ago and he went into that 131st.

Fellow Welshman Bradley Dredge, an ever-present in Europe’s top 100 for the last 13 years, is also in Hong Kong fighting for his future.

The 39-year-old is 121st on the standings £604 behind Davies and is no longer able to fall back on his career earnings of almost £6m to preserve his membership of the circuit if he fails to move up at least two positions.

The top 40 in that category also earn cards, but Dredge has slipped from 40th to 42nd this year.

With Ian Poulter defending his Australian Masters title and Graeme McDowell there too, the stiffest competition to McIlroy this time should come from American Ryder Cup player Matt Kuchar, Scot Paul Lawrie and last week’s winner Matteo Manassero.