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Page last updated at 16:59 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Star trio set for Dubai shoot-out

Dubai World Championship
Venue: Earth Course, Jumeirah Golf Estates Dates: 19-22 November
Coverage: Leaderboard updates and reports on BBC Sport website. Live on Sky

Lee Westwood
Since the USPGA all of my thoughts on working on my game have been geared towards next April at Augusta

Lee Westwood

Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Ross Fisher will all go into the Dubai World Championship on Thursday bidding to become the new European number one.

Victory for McIlroy, Westwood or Germany's Martin Kaymer will guarantee them top spot whatever else happens.

Fisher can also top the rankings, but has to finish first or second and hope other results go his way.

Race to Dubai leader McIlroy, 20, would be the youngest European number one since Seve Ballesteros in 1976.

The Northern Irishman leads England's Westwood by £114,000, and could mathematically finish top by finishing 58th out of 58th this weekend.

McIlroy also has the opportunity to become the world number six, while also boosting his bank account by more than £1.6m (the winner of the event will earn £744,000, the new European champion will earn just shy of £900,000 as a bonus).

Westwood cannot afford to finish worse than seventh if he wants to recapture the crown he won in 2000, while Kaymer will definitely miss out if he does not finish in the top four.

"I'm sort of just living out my dream and I couldn't be happier," said McIlroy, who will switch to the US PGA Tour next season.

"To be sitting here now 13th in the world, leading the Race to Dubai, I'm just really enjoying it.


"This is what I've always wanted to do. If I can play the rest of my career happy and realising how lucky I am to be playing a great game like this for a living then I think I'll be doing OK."

Westwood, 36, insists he is more interested in winning a first major title than being crowned European champion again

He said: "I've won an Order of Merit (the previous name for the season-long European title race, in 2000).

"Majors are things that I haven't won and they are the things that I'm gearing my game towards."

Westwood was leapfrogged at the top of the standings by McIlroy after finishing well down the field in last week's Hong Kong Open, where his rival finished runner-up.


Nine years ago Westwood entered the deciding American Express world championship at Valderrama £62,000 behind Darren Clarke, but became European number one by finishing second to Canadian Mike Weir.

"I don't think I've ever been as nervous as I was coming down the last needing to make a par," Westwood recalled.

"If you watch the TV pictures you will probably see that my knees were twitching. The two-foot putt I had to hole looked as if it was about 12 feet."

If Westwood does come up short he might rue several missed opportunities earlier in the year.

"I could have been standing here with a lead of £1m or £1.5m. I bogeyed the last two holes of the St Andrews Links to go from about fifth to ninth, bogeyed the last hole in China, bogeyed the last hole of the Open and lost a play-off (to Kaymer) in France."

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy will switch to the US tour next season

A closing par at Turnberry would have put him in the Open play-off with Tom Watson and Stewart Cink, but instead he had to settle for third place there and at the USPGA a month later.

"It could have been a life-changing experience," Westwood said of the Open. "I'm not going to kid you. Since the PGA all of my thoughts on working on my game have been geared towards next April at Augusta (the Masters)."

Meanwhile, Westwood's compatriot and World Match Play champion Fisher has predicted a winning score of "14 or 15 under par".

"I think you can break 70 every day [four 69s would mean 12 under] you'd have a pretty decent score," said Fisher, who turns 29 on Sunday.

The Greg Norman-designed Earth Course is the second-longest layout in European Tour history.

And while parts of it still resemble a building site, European Tour chief executive George O'Grady said the tournament will be back at the same venue next year.

The top 60 on the money list qualified for the season-ending event, but England's Paul Casey is injured and American Anthony Kim decided not to play.

The 58 remaining players were supposed to be part of the richest tournament ever staged, but the financial downturn in the region led to sponsors cutting the prize fund by 25%.

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see also
McIlroy upbeat ahead of title bid
16 Nov 09 |  Golf
Westwood chips in on 606
11 Nov 09 |  Golf
Bourdy wins after McIlroy charge
15 Nov 09 |  Golf
McIlroy eyes European top spot
10 Nov 09 |  Golf
Injury forces Casey to skip Dubai
14 Nov 09 |  Golf
Golf on the BBC
01 Jul 11 |  Golf

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