The major subplots of the respective tournaments on the European and PGA Tours this coming week are qualification for the World Tour Championship and players taking the final opportunity to retain their playing privileges for next season.
The Race to Dubai is the title formerly known as the European Order of Merit. It is so named because the season finale takes place in Dubai later this month after the last three qualifying events. The leading 60 players in the standings get automatic invites to the Dubai event and several players on the “bubble” will be looking to confirm a spot over the next three weeks.
Former world number three Henrik Stenson, Peter Lawrie form Northern Ireland and Southport based Lee Slattery are currently 58th to 60th so are under most threat. Thomas Aiken, Brett Rumford, Anthony Wall, Joel Sloholm and Martin Laird are 61st to 65th so can qualify for Dubai by finishing in the top 10 this week at the Barclay Singapore Open.
At the other end of the table Rory McIlroy (pictured) has a healthy lead. He is trying to win both titles on the main Tours, a feat only ever achieved by Luke Donald and that was last year. His three regular Tour wins and major victory in the States have tied up the US part of the deal but McIlroy has now committed to a full schedule on the European Tour until the end of the season to win the Race to Dubai.
Most of the leading Europeans are competing on their own Tour at this time of the year. This is due to the lucrative prize funds and the benefits of making the season ending event. However, only three of Europe’s 12 Ryder Cup players will be playing in Europe regularly next season and the rest now have bases in the States.
The final tournament of the Fall Series and regular PGA season is the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at the Magnolia Golf Club in Florida. Players will be striving to finish inside the top 125 in the Money List to keep their card for 2013. Those successful can begin to plan a schedule rather than rely on invites and Monday qualifying.
The issue is complicated somewhat by the status of Retief Goosen. He is currently 131st in the standings but will retain his card due to career earnings. That means the player who ends the season at 125 will agonisingly miss out. YE Yang has a five year exemption for winning the PGA Championship in 2009 so he will take another spot despite being outside the qualifying band..
In the past these issues have been decided by a single putt on the final green of the last qualifying tournament. Players on this “bubble” such as Jason Bohn, Jhonattan Vegas, Heath Slocum and Boo Weekly will be hoping to avoid such a scenario but some clutch putts will have to be holed on Sunday afternoon in order for players to secure their short term futures on the PGA Tour.