The European Tour’s Final Series gets underway this week with the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai, China. Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano defends the title.

Lowdown:
The European Tour’s Final Series gets underway this week with the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai, China. Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano defends the title.

A strong field has assembled for this tournament where competitors will compete for a prize-fund of $7,000,000 (more than €5,500,000.) Over the next four tournaments on the European Tour over $30 million is up for grabs. The European Tour’s Number 1 player for 2014 will be crowned after the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Rory McIlroy currently leads the Race to Dubai by some margin. But, since the Northern Irishman has withdrawn from the first two events of The Final Series, the door has been opened to his pursuers.

Race to Dubai earnings have been converted to points for The Final Series so McIlroy currently has a lead of 3,125,000 points over second placed Sergio Garcia. But with 1,666,600 points going to the winner of each Final Series event, that gap is highly bridgeable. In fact, any player in the top 60 could get within striking distance of McIlroy with two victories before the World Number 1 re-enters the fray in Dubai.

The other contest to watch this week is the battle to secure a top-15 place on the Race to Dubai and a share of the $5 million bonus pool that will be paid out after the DP World Tour Championship. Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand is currently in 15th spot but he’s only 13,000 points ahead of 16th placed Charl Schwartzel. With the South African not teeing it up this week and only 10 of the top-15 in the field, Jaidee will be looking to move up the standings.

This will be the third running of the BMW Masters. Sweden’s Peter Hanson was the winner in 2012 and, last season, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain took the win by a single stroke from Francesco Molinari of Italy and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand.

The Masters Course at Lake Malaren is a Jack Nicklaus designed parkland layout featuring his usual blend of extensive bunkering and large water hazards. It’s a visually intimidating course and one that can be stretched to over 7,600 yards.

There could be some rain around Shanghai for the first couple of days of the tournament. It doesn’t look like being thundery but there could well be a delay or two.

Venue: Lake Malaren Golf Club, Shanghai, China
Date: Oct 30 – Nov 2
Course stats: par 72, 7,607 yards
Purse: €5,510,000 Winner: €880,000
Defending Champion: Gonzalo Fernandez Castano (-11)

TV Coverage:

Thursday 30 – Sky Sports 4 from 3am
Friday 31 – Sky Sports 4 from 3am
Saturday 1 – Sky Sports 4 from 3am
Sunday 2 – Sky Sports 4 from 3am

Player Watch:

Mikko Ilonen – The Finn won the Volvo World Matchplay two weeks ago and will look to continue in the same vein this week. He’s had an excellent season with two victories and a runner’s up finish. He’s currently 10th on the Race to Dubai and will be aiming to consolidate his position.

Thongchai Jaidee – The experienced Thai has been on good form in recent weeks and he was tied second in this event last year. He is currently 15th on the Race to Dubai and will be keen to move up.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – The talented Spaniard showed some good form in his last European Tour start at the Portugal Masters. He was tied eighth in this event last year.

Key Hole: 18th – A classic Nicklaus finishing hole: A dog-leg left with water all down the left hand side. It’s 471 yards long so demands two solid blows and the more of the corner you cut off from the tee, the shorter the approach will be.