The European Tour is in China this week for the first event of The Final Series. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain defends the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai.
This is the first of four events comprising the European Tour’s Final Series. Over $30 million of prize-money is on offer through those tournaments and after the last of them (the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai,) the European Tour’s No. 1 player for 2014 will be crowned.
There’s a limited field of just 78 players for this tournament and a prize fund of $7,000,000. The winner at Lake Malaren will walk away with $1,116,000.
Here are four key things to look out for this week in Shanghai:
1. Race to Dubai earnings have been converted to points for The Final Series. Rory McIlroy currently has a lead of 3,125,000 over Sergio Garcia in second place. But neither man is playing this week. In fact, Rory won’t tee it up again until the DP World Tour Championship. That means the door has been opened for the chasing pack. With 1,660,600 points going to the winner of each Final Series event, Rory can be caught. With two Final Series wins, anyone in the top 60 on the standings could get within striking distance of the World Number 1.
2. At the end of The Final Series, the top-15 players on the standings will share a bonus of $5,000,000. Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand is currently 15th. With only 10 of the top-15 in action this week, he’ll be looking to move up the rankings. Jaidee was tied second in this event last year so could be one to watch. The top ranked player on the Race to Dubai playing this week is Jamie Donaldson. The Welshman sits fourth on the list.
3. A strong contingent of players from the USA appears on the start sheet in Shanghai. Chris Kirk, second in the FedEx Cup, will lead the challenge. He comes into this event on the back of a solid, tied fourth place finish in The McGladrey Classic. Ryan Palmer also starts. He’s played a few events on the European Tour this season and was tied 14th in the recent Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews. Kevin Stadler and Brooks Koepka will also tee it up. Koepka is one of the longest hitters in world golf and has enjoyed an excellent year on both sides of the Atlantic.
4. Justin Rose makes his first European Tour start since his exceptional performance in the Ryder Cup, where he was leading points scorer. He’s currently only eighth on the Race to Dubai standings, but will start as the favourite in Shanghai. Six more members of the European Ryder Cup side will play at Lake Malaren – Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Stephen Gallacher, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter.