Garcia leads plaudits for absent champion-elect McIlroy

Jamie Donaldson, Sergio Garcia and Marcel Siem will have to achieve something only Rory McIlroy himself has done this season to deny the world No 1 a second Race to Dubai title in three years.

McIlroy did not play in either of the first two Final Series events in China as he prepares for his court case with a former management company, and will again be absent from this week’s Turkish Airlines Open.

However, the 25-year-old’s four victories this season – including his third and fourth major titles in the Open and US PGA Championship – mean he still has an almost insurmountable lead at the top of the standings.

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One of his three nearest challengers has to win both in Turkey and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to have a chance of overhauling the Northern Irishman, who is the only player to win back-to-back titles on the European Tour in 2014.

American Billy Horschel took advantage of the reset points system to win the last two events of the FedEx Cup play-offs and the overall title this year, but Garcia believes there would be nothing wrong with McIlroy wrapping up the title with an event to spare.

“I’m a big believer that if you have done something extraordinary to be able to achieve that, to win [the Race to Dubai] before the last tournament happens, why shouldn’t you be the winner,” said Garcia.

“I think Rory did something quite extraordinary this summer, and maybe he deserves to be the Race to Dubai champion, even before we play the Dubai World Championship next week.

“There’s no doubt that it’s nice to be a part of it, to have still a little chance of winning it. It’s obviously very difficult but to at least be in the race for it and have a possibility of becoming the Race to Dubai champion, it’s something that you look forward to and I’m going to need a couple of really, really good weeks – we’ll try it until it’s over.”

McIlroy will finish the season with at least 5,427,869 points –his current total plus last place points in Dubai – but if Donaldson won both remaining events he would have 5,790,483 points and McIlroy would therefore need to finish fifth or better in Dubai to stay ahead of the Welshman. If Garcia won both, McIlroy would require a top-seven finish in Dubai while if BMW Masters winner Siem won in Turkey and Dubai, McIlroy would need to finish 17th or better over the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Colin Montgomerie makes his 600th appearance on the European Tour at the Turkish Airlines Open while Yorkshire’s Simon Dyson and Danny Willett are also in the field.