SHANGHAI • Rory McIlroy says his burning desire to win a fourth Race to Dubai crown in five years is keeping him fired up and focused down the final stretch of a long season.
The Northern Irish golfer leapt into contention at the WGC-HSBC Champions with a second-round six-under 66 yesterday. This took him to 137 for the tournament, six behind runaway leader Hideki Matsuyama (65) of Japan, but only three shots off joint second place - Bill Haas (67) and Russell Knox (68).
The world No. 3 is looking to take home sizeable chunks of the huge prize funds available in his final three events in Shanghai (US$9.5 million), Turkey (US$7 million) next week and the season-ending European Tour Championship in Dubai (US$8 million).
With more than a million ranking points available to the winner of each event, third-placed McIlroy can still overhaul the 1,055,971-point gap in the standings to leader Danny Willett and the 643,243 points between him and second-placed Henrik Stenson.
He has made a good start to his quest by outscoring both by the halfway mark in Shanghai.
Stenson (71) lies three shots behind McIlroy, who is tied for seventh. But the out-of-sorts Willett has major damage limitation to do at the weekend, as he is 15 shots behind the Ulsternman after a 74 was followed by a disastrous 78 yesterday.
Rory McIlroy shot seven birdies yesterday, versus two in the opening round, at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
"I want to finish the season off well. I have a good record here, good record in Dubai and let's see how it goes in Turkey," McIlroy said.
"If I play the way I know that I can, hopefully I can get it done. There's a target in your sights and that's the Race to Dubai for me - I've won it three of the last four years. Trying to go four out of five, I think that's a big motivation and a big key for me."
Now he has the double of Race to Dubai and FedExCup in his sights, something only achieved once before - by Stenson in 2013.
"I want to try and do the double. I want to try to win the Race to Dubai as well as what I've already achieved this year," he said. "There's a lot to play for still for me and that's why I feel like it's pretty easy to get motivated for the next few weeks."
Matsuyama, who rose to world No. 10 on Monday after finishing second in last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, studied the rising wind in the practice range before yesterday's round and thought to himself that a round of 70 would be a great score.
He then went five better.
"I knew it was going to be tough and it really was," said. "It was cold as well and the ball was hard to control. Luckily, I've been playing well recently and my second shots are going where I want them to."
No Asian has won a World Golf Championship - South Korea's Y.E. Yang is the only Major winner.
Matsuyama, 24, could put that right tomorrow.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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