With just three weeks remaining of the inaugural Race to Dubai, every Euro earned is critical and there’s certainly no shortage on offer. Both this week’s event plus the finale Dubai World Championship carry massive prize funds, so should any of the five players at the head of that race win one of them, they will be very hard to catch.
However, their chances of doing so are significantly weakened by the presence of Tiger Woods in Shanghai this week, and again next week in Australia. No doubt the vast sums in appearance money have lured Tiger overseas at this late stage of the year, but it also may have something to do with the fact that, for its fifth renewal, this event at Sheshan International GC becomes a WGC event. You may be confused at this stage to see the HSBC Champions Trophy playing such a pivotal late role in the money list, as it also opened the Race to Dubai last November. The reason for this duplication is that the schedule is being tied up from next year to ensure the entire race takes place in the same calendar year.
First of all then, we must discuss Tiger’s chances because, as always, he could quite easily turn this into a contest for second place. After six victories in 2009, and a 100 percent strike-rate last time out at the Presidents Cup, only a fool would write off that possibility. Nevertheless, those who prefer to take him on at short prices will be buoyed by the fact that Woods failed to win either of his two previous attempts at Sheshan; being denied by David Howell and a certain Y.E. Yang in 2005 and 2006.
Furthermore, the course in those years was ideal for Woods, as the rough wasn’t particularly penal. This time, we are told it has been overseeded and will represent a much tougher test. In addition to the numerous water hazards, plus firm, undulating greens, this one-time long hitters’ paradise should place a far greater emphasis on tee-to-green accuracy and course management. If that is so; and I should add that such predictions have been repeatedly disproved by rain all year though the current forecast is fine; many more shorter hitters come into the argument.
It is also may well be that, after a few weeks off, we don’t see Tiger’s ‘A-game’. Moreover, his presence ensures that there is plenty of each-way value about some high-class alternatives. The competition at the head of this market is fierce, but equally there seems little strength in depth. There are half the usual number of competitors in this limited field event, and at least 20 look to be no-hopers. Its worth noting that, besides Yang, no Asian Tour player has made the top five in the previous four renewals.