By Andy Sambidge
Golfing sensation Rory McIlroy in pole position to claim the title of Europe's top performer.
Play started on Thursday at the season ending Dubai World Championship golf tournament, with four of the world's top players still in the frame for the title of Europe's top golfer.
What began as a 51 tournament marathon over a year ago in China is now reduced to a dynamic sprint finish for the line in the emirate.
Playing on the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates for the first time, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Ross Fisher know that history lies in their hands.
Victory in the Dubai World Championship for any of the first three named will ensure they stand at the summit of European golf on Sunday night.
Should Fisher prevail, the recently crowned Volvo World Match Play Champion could be caught by either McIlroy or Westwood if either of that pair finished second while Kaymer would have insufficient points to reach Fisher.
For 20 year old McIlroy, he is bidding to become the second youngest European Number One behind the great Seve Ballesteros.
He said: “I won’t be trying to protect a lead or finish ahead of this guy or that guy. I want to win. If I win it will take care of everything.
“I am Number One at the moment but there are four rounds of golf left. If I can play as well this week in Dubai as I have done of late then I will give myself a great chance to end Number One. It is where I wanted to be going into the final tournament.”
His closest challenger, Westwood, said he was excited to see the Greg Norman-designed Earth course.
Westwood said: “Obviously I am looking forward to the week. If I win the Dubai World Championship, I win The Race to Dubai, simple as that. That’s what I set out to do at the start of the last few weeks.”