Race to Dubai competition to heat up in Hong Kong
The European Tour's top earners are gathering in Hong Kong this week to make a final push for the lucrative season-ending tournament in Dubai. Race to Dubai leaders Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy and No. 10 Ian Poulter are among the star attractions at $2.5 million UBS Hong Kong Open, starting Thursday at the par-70, 6,702-yard course at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling. Paul Casey, who was sitting fifth in the Race to Dubai, was scheduled to play in Hong Kong but pulled out with a recurring rib injury. The Hong Kong tournament, co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, has attracted one of its strongest fields since it was first staged in 1959 - in part thanks to its timing as the final pre-Dubai tournament and proximity to the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week. The top 60 earners on the European Tour after Hong Kong will play in Dubai on Nov. 19 to Nov. 22 for a $7.5 million bonus pool. Westwood told reporters Tuesday he hopes to cushion his lead in the European Tour prize money list when he makes his debut at the Hong Kong tournament. "The people in Dubai will be delighted it is fairly open and obviously I am in the best position of anybody and pleased to be in that position ... There is big prize money next week, but it will certainly help to win here this week," the Englishman said. Northern Ireland's McIlroy said he's looking forward to closing the gap between him and Westwood at one of his favorite stops on the calendar. "There is not much between us now, so any ground I can gain this week will be good to take into Dubai," McIlroy said. "But winning will take care of that, so that is my main focus." The field in Hong Kong also includes former British Open champions Mark O'Meara and Ben Curtis, Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, PGA Championship winner Yang Yong-eun of South Korea - the first Asian major winner - as well as two-time Hong Kong champion Miguel Angel Jimenez and defending champion Lin Wen-tang of Taiwan. Sweden's Robert Karlsson, who won the last Order of Merit title on the European Tour, is still on the comeback after being forced out of the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black because of an eye infection which left him with no depth perception in his left eye. McIlroy and Westwood are coming off strong showings at the HSBC Champions. McIlroy finished fourth - ahead of Tiger Woods - and Westwood tied for eighth. McIlroy is also aiming to go one step further than he did here last year, when he narrowly lost a playoff against Lin. Other stars in the Hong Kong field are five-time PGA winner Rory Sabbatini, India's Jeev Milkha Singh and Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Thongchai Jaidee from Thailand.