Danny Willett won’t hold back aggression in race with Rory McIlroy

Danny Willett
Danny Willett
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Danny Willett insists he cannot play cautious golf over the next four days as he hunts down top spot in the European Order of Merit.

The Sheffield golfer sits just 1,613 points – equating to roughly 600 euros in prize money – behind leader Rory McIlroy heading into the final event of the season, the DP World Tour Championship which starts in Dubai today.

Though seven men can mathematically still finish the season atop the Race to Dubai, in all probability it will come down to a straight shoot-out between Willett and McIlroy, determined by whichever of them finishes highest at this weekend’s event.

Despite that, Hackenthorpe-born Willett will not be taking the safety-first option, largely down to the make-up of the Jumeirah Golf Estates course.

“I think this golf course needs aggressive play,” the 28-year-old said. “Look at the scores that have won it in the last three years. I think it’s been 18, 22 and 24 under par.

“You can’t just waltz around here making pars and expect that to do you any good.

“I think you have to take this golf course on.

“If it’s your week, you play aggressive and it comes off. If it’s not your week, you play aggressive and doesn’t come off.

“I guess you have to take that chance.

“Hopefully you hit the right shots at the right time, get a few breaks, hole a few putts and everything could be rosy come Sunday afternoon.

“You just have to play your game and try to shoot a good number or as good a number as you can shoot on that particular day.”

All eyes will be on Willett and McIlroy as they tee off in the final pairing together at 8.40am on Thursday with their head to head battle dominating the narrative of the event.

McIlroy was given special dispensation to play in the European Tour Finals Series which culminates with the DP World Tour Championships despite not playing in the required number of Tour events to gain entry.

An ankle injury in the summer kept the Northern Irishman out of action, leading Tour chief executive Keith Pelley to allow him to compete in the season closers.

Willett believes McIlroy deserves credit for heading into the final event on top of the Order of Merit despite playing few events.

But he also said there should not be a scenario where rules are regularly broken.

Willett said: “I think I’ve played 22 or so events and Rory has played 12. If Rory wins more money than anyone else playing less events, that’s just good golf.

“There’s still rules to kind of abide by, otherwise they wouldn’t make rules.

“If rules were allowed to be broken all the time, then there’s no point setting them in the first place.

“It’s a very difficult one to kind of get correct and it was the first decision Keith had to make in becoming commissioner.

“I think he made the correct decision.”

Provided Branden Grace, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen, Shane Lowry and Byeong-hun An all fail to secure top two finishes, Willett needs only an outright 56th placing and to finish ahead of McIlroy to win the Race to Dubai.

For each of the other five contenders, a complicated series of permutations come into play to deny Willett and McIlroy glory.

Rank outsider An needs to win the event before even beginning to consider the permutations. Grace, Oosthuizen and Lowry must win or finish outright second before the permutations.

The one player in the best position to spoil Willett and McIlroy’s hopes is Rose. The Englishman needs a two-way tie for second or better as long as his two rivals finish in a three-way tie for second or worse and none of the other four contenders win the event.