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McIlroy's rivals drop out of 'Race'

Rory McIlroy has been virtually gifted the European Tour No.1 title with his five nearest rivals electing not to contest two of the three closing Race to Dubai events.

The five – Sweden's Peter Hanson (second on the money list) and England's Justin Rose (third) and Ian Poulter (fourth), along with the South African duo, Branden Grace (fifth) and Ernie Els (sixth) – will not tee up in this week's Barclays Singapore Open or the following week's UBS Hong Kong Open.

Hanson is £616,880 behind McIlroy after finishing well behind Poulter in the WGC-HSBC Champions at Shenzhen in China. Poulter captured a second WGC title by two strokes with a second straight 65 here on the Olazabal Course at Mission Hills in Shenzhen from Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner, Ernie Els and Scott Piercy. Another stroke back were Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood.

The Englishman is now eyeing a first major success, starting next April at Augusta. "I know I've got the golf game to be able to go out there and win majors," said Poulter. "People keep asking: 'When, when, when'. I don't know when, but I'll do my best next year and see if I can do that."

The organisers of this week's Barclays Singapore Open were holding an invitation for Hanson, but the Swede, who finished 24th in Shenzhen, has declined and returned to his residence in Orlando .

Also back in Orlando will be Rose and Poulter, and with Poulter ruling out the Singapore Open ahead of teeing up in the Australian Masters, McIlroy will compete this week in Singapore and then defend the following week in Hong Kong virtually only needing a top 10 finish in Singapore to be assured of being crowned European No.1.

Hanson said: "In the bigger picture, I still have plenty of years to win the Race to Dubai and besides, given the way Rory has played this year, I feel as though he deserves to end the year as No.1.

"Also, I have some stuff to do back in Florida and the Tiger Challenge with Justin Rose on the Monday and Tuesday of the Hong Kong Open. So if I did play Singapore, I would be letting Justin down for the Tiger Challenge."

Paul Lawrie returns home bitterly disappointed with his form, having broken 70 just once and posting a weekend pair of 72s for a share of 36th place on four under par. In his final round, the Scot dropped five shots over three holes from the 15th.

"I played terribly this week," said Lawrie. "I was going along quite nicely today at five under with four to play, but then I hit it into water at the 15th, snap-hooked my drive into the trouble at the 16th and then three putted from five feet at the next.

"I am just looking forward to getting home and forgetting some of the stuff out here this week."

Lawrie has a book-signing session of his autobiography, An Open Book, later this week in Aberdeen before his next event, the UBS Hong Kong Open.

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