Willett closes in on European No 1 spot

Sheffield’s Danny Willett piled the pressure on Rory McIlroy in The Race to Dubai with a stunning final round of 62 in the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is coming under pressure from Danny Willett. (AP Photo)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is coming under pressure from Danny Willett. (AP Photo)

Willett surged through the field at Sheshan International Golf Club with ten unanswered birdies – including four in a row from the first – to finish in a tie for third place and secure his best result in a World Golf Championship stroke play event.

The Englishman now moves onto next week’s BMW Masters with just a 74,214 point deficit to make up on McIlroy, who birdied his last hole to finish in a share of 11th place on 14 under par following a closing 66.

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With McIlroy not in action again until the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, a top 25 finish for Willett at Lake Malaren Golf Club would see him usurp the Northern Irishman at the top of The Race to Dubai Rankings.

He said: “This could be a very big result for me. With Rory not playing next week, I could gain a few more points on him and give us a nice buzz going into the final week into Dubai.

“I’ve been determined all year, ever since I got to number one straight off the bat at the Nedbank. I though, it would be good to stay up there all year. After that big win, I kept pressing hard and I’ve been able to post some really good numbers around the world. Hopefully I can keep that going for two more weeks.”

For his part, McIlroy is relishing the prospect of fighting for the crown in Dubai, as the World Number Three seeks his third Race to Dubai title in four years.

He said: “I saw Danny got off to a great start and then he kept it going. It’s a great round of golf, and it keeps The Race to Dubai very exciting.

“He’s got a great chance to do something next week at the BMW [Masters]. He’s obviously playing very well, so he has a great chance to creep up on me or even overtake me.

“But I still rate my chances. I obviously know the [Earth] course very well and Dubai is a bit of a second home for me, plus I’m going for the double after winning there earlier in the season [in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic].

“So I’m looking forward to it. I always enjoy it there, and I’ve obviously done well there before. So I just need to go there and try and get the win, and hopefully that will be enough.”

Russell Knox of Scotland won the event for the biggest prize of his career.