Wood makes a solid start to big Dubai event
BRISTOL'S Chris Wood continued his recent good form with an opening round 71 in the lucrative end-of-season Race to Dubai tournament.
Two top-ten finishes in Hong Kong and Singapore saw Wood go into the event at DP World Tour Championship brimming with confidence.
His first round, which saw him make four birdies but drop three shots, was good enough to leave him tied 34th among a star-studded field.
His recent form has seen the 6ft 5in Long Ashton GC member rise up the Race to Dubai rankings to 43rd, but it is World Ranking points he craves now.
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He said: "This event gives me the chance to win those valuable world ranking points, which could see me rise in the world standings.
"I know I'm good enough to compete alongside players already in the top-50 and top-100 on the circuit, I just need the chance to prove how good I am.
"I've benefited from a couple of weeks practicing in Dubai before heading to Singapore and Hong Kong and feel my game has improved."
Luke Donald picked up where he left off in more ways than one in Dubai yesterday – but as so often in the recent past it might turn out to be Rory McIlroy's week.
Donald leads the European Tour's season-ending DP World Tour Championship after opening the £6 million event with a seven-under-par 65.
It was a continuation of the form he showed not only when he won in Japan on Sunday, but also when he closed with two 66s on the Earth course last December.
McIlroy is only one stroke back, however, and that after driving in the water on the long final hole and having to settle for a par there and an inward half of 31.
It sets up the possibility of the world's top two players having a shootout at the weekend, Donald having gone back to second ahead of Tiger Woods with his victory at the Dunlop Phoenix tournament.
"There's always a buzz playing in the last group and if I play well again, hopefully we'll get a chance," said McIlroy, who is in joint second place with Scot Marc Warren and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
Not that the number one spot or the Tour's Order of Merit title would be at stake. The 23-year-old has huge leads in both and has already emulated Donald's feat last year of topping the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.
If the Englishman can win, though, both would end 2012 with four victories – the big difference, of course, being that one of McIlroy's was his second major. Donald has yet to break his duck.
On the possible head-to-head between the pair, Donald said: "I'd love the challenge.
"It would be fun for us, fun for the fans and obviously fun for TV. It would be a great way to end the year."
The 34-year-old packed his seven birdies into ten holes from the fifth and said: "That middle part I really swung the ball well and made a lot of putts – I felt like I couldn't miss.
"You always feel different the week after winning. You just feel like you have that little extra pep in your step and there's a bit more confidence flowing through you for sure – especially winning by five as I did."
Last season, third place was good enough for him to hold off McIlroy in the Race to Dubai, but now he has only the tournament to think about.
"There was a lot more at stake last year, so obviously I felt a little bit more pressure. This time it definitely feels a little bit easier."
McIlroy turned in only one under, but birdied the 10th and 12th and had three more in a row from the long 14th.