NORMAN — DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — With the buzz around top-ranked Rory McIlroy, some of the other big names playing at the Dubai World Championship can be forgotten.
The two-time major winner, who has already wrapped up the European Tour money title, is the favorite to win the season-ending tournament that starts Thursday. But several other Ryder Cup stars, including Ian Poulter and second-ranked Luke Donald, would like to cap off their seasons with a victory.
There are others, including South African newcomer Branden Grace, who know a strong finish could help them move up the rankings and qualify for a major in 2013. A top-30 finish gets them into the British Open, top 15 into the U.S. Open and a top 10 on the money list gets them a share of the $3.75 million in bonus money.
The 13th-ranked Poulter, who struggled earlier in the year, has played some of his best golf since helping lead Europe to the Ryder Cup victory over the United States in September. After his putting fueled the come-from-behind victory, Poulter won the HSBC Champions for his second career World Golf Championships title. He also finished second last week at the Australian Masters.
“I’m looking forward to this week,” said Poulter, whose penalty in a two-way playoff cost him a shot at the 2010 Dubai title. “I guess I’m in some pretty good form, so feeling like we can end the year on a very high note and move further in the world rankings, which would be very pleasing.”
The challenge for Poulter is translating the success he’s had at the Ryder Cup into more consistency on the PGA and European Tour. He had four wins in four matches at Medinah and his 12-3 career record is the highest winning percentage of any European golfer in history.
“I can produce and it is within me,” Poulter said. “It comes out in the Ryder Cup. So why shouldn’t I be able to produce that week in, week out?
Donald arrived in Dubai last year on the cusp of making history as the first golfer to win the PGA and European Tour money titles. This time around, he is overshadowed by McIlroy.
Still, the Chicago-based Donald has been playing better since contributing to the European Ryder Cup win. He arrives off of winning the Dunlop Phoenix Open.