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Lahiri aims to end European Tour on a high

Dubai, Nov 18 : Leading Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri will look to end the European Tour season on a high when he tees off at the $8 million DP World Tour Championship here on Wednesday.

Lahiri, who won Malaysia Open and Indian Open in February apart from the tied fifth finish at the US PGA Championship, qualified for the 60-player season-ender by virtue of his 19th place in the Order of Merit. The 28-year-old earned 1,500,294 euros (around $1,601,548) this season.

The World No.42 will tee off alongside No.79 Jaco van Zyl of South Africa at the Earth Course of the Jumeirah Golf Estates.

A good performance here will further elevate the rising status of the Bengaluru-based golfer. Last week, also he didn’t participate in any competition and the importance of the tournament can be judged from it.

However, it will be incredibly tough as top European golfers will also be eager to leave a mark at the 48th tournament on the tour.

European Tour reigning champion Rory McIlroy has his eyes firmly set on a third continental title with the Northern Irishman holding a narrow lead over Danny Willett of England at the summit of the season-long ranking coming into this climactic week.

World No.3 McIlroy has 3,309,215 euros ($3,531,428) from 11 tournaments, while world No.21 Willett got 3,282,602 euros ($3,503,028) from 22 events. They also have been paired for the tee off. Whoever wins the tournament, will walk away with the Order of Merit title.

McIlroy, the former No.1 has a stellar record at Jumeirah Golf Estates having placed inside the top five five times in six appearances here. Despite having only lifted the coveted sceptre trophy just once, the 26-year-old has beaten 94.1 percent of the field — or 354 players — in his six starts, has shot under par in 23 of his 24 rounds here and is 88 under par for his career at the DP World Tour Championship.

“I didn’t quite think I’d be in this position, and coming into this event, especially after taking the week off last week, but a few of the guys didn’t capitalise on that in China thankfully and I find myself in a position where it’s totally in my hands,” McIlroy told europeantour.com.

“If I go out and win the tournament, I win the overall thing no matter what anybody else does, and that’s a nice position to be in. Obviously that’s the main objective this week, and I feel like I’m playing well enough to do that.”

Among other favourites, Henrik Stenson will launch his bid of the hat-trick of titles, following his success on 2013 and 2014, in the company of last week’s runner-up Patrick Reed.

World No.39 Byeong-hun An of South Africa, No.19 Branden Grace of South Africa, No.13 Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, No.18 Shane Lowry of Ireland and No.15 Justin Rose of England will also have chances to upstage McIlroy in Order of Merit race.