Danny Willett is determined to mount a late-season charge for the Race to Dubai title for the second season running – although he is looking to go one better than he did in 2015.
The Englishman begins the Final Series at the Turkish Airlines Open at Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort in second place in the European rankings after being overtaken by Henrik Stenson at last week’s WGC-HSBC Champions.
A tie for 11th in Turkey last season, a tie for third in Shanghai and a tie for 29th at the BMW Masters meant Willett headed into the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai just 1,613 points behind Race to Dubai leader Rory McIlroy.
In the end, McIlroy won in Dubai and with Willett finishing in a tie for fourth, the Northern Irishman retained his title by over a million points.
The battle was much closer than the numbers suggest, however, and a fifth-place finish or better could move Willett back ahead of Stenson and into the top spot on Sunday afternoon with the Swede not active this week.
McIlroy also has a chance of making it three Race to Dubai wins in a row from third with a host of other players knowing that three big weeks could see them claim the ultimate prize, a prize Willett would love to get his hands on.
“We’ve been leading it for a long, long time,” he said. “Unfortunately last week, I had probably my worst event on Tour for the years I’ve been on and Henrik finished second, so jumped us.
“For me, this is a pretty big week. Henrik is not here. He was never scheduled to play anyway. So it gives me a chance to either close that gap or hopefully leapfrog again and make it really interesting coming down to the last two.
“We were never going to win the Race to Dubai on the amount we were on. We always had to bump it forward and that’s still the aim. Got to go out here this week and hopefully the golf game gets a little better and we just keep working forward
“We’ve got Nedbank at Sun City in South Africa next week and then the Race to Dubai finale in three weeks’ time. So there’s still a lot of golf left. I’ve just not been playing very well, so that’s the main aim of the next three weeks.
“Last year I played nice at HSBC and then at Lake Malaren I didn’t play great and couldn’t quite jump Rory. So last year he ended up winning by a good margin but it was slightly closer than that.
“With myself and Henrik and Rory right there behind, depending on that no one does anything silly the next few weeks, Dubai could be really, really good.”
Once the Race to Dubai is over, Willett will head to Australia for the World Cup of Golf where he will represent England alongside countryman Lee Westwood.
The two-time European No 1 is currently 10th in the Race to Dubai and after three top fives this season – including recently at the British Masters – he is looking to finish with a flourish as he edges towards a remarkable landmark.