DUBAI, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy’s big, booming drives will give him a sizeable advantage in his European money-list battle with fellow Briton Luke Donald at this week’s Dubai World Championship, according to title holder Robert Karlsson.
“If you look at the previous winners, Lee Westwood in 2009 and myself last year... the golf course is definitely set up for the longer hitter,” Swede Karlsson told reporters on the eve of the season-ending tournament.
“Rory will have a huge advantage getting up to the greens, that’s just the way it is.”
World number one Donald, aiming to become the first player to win the orders of merit on both sides of the Atlantic, has a lead of more than $1 million over second-placed McIlroy going into the money-spinning event in Dubai.
The elite 58-man field are competing for a prize fund of $7.5 million, with $1.25 million going to the winner. An additional $7.5 million bonus pool is also up for grabs for the top 15 in the final order of merit.
The four par-five holes, the second, seventh, 14th and 18th, on the Greg Norman-designed Earth layout in Dubai will represent a testing challenge to all the players at 572, 583, 620 and 626 yards respectively.
“I don’t know how the organisers are going to set up the 18th especially,” said Karlsson. “When we played it yesterday it felt a million yards long.
“I don’t think Luke can get up in two shots on any of the par-fives and I think Rory can get on at least three of them.”
Karlsson also said the quality of the rough at the Earth course had improved in the last 12 months — another reason to favour world number two McIlroy if he finds trouble off the tee.
“The rough is more consistent now so it’s easier to get out if you miss the fairways too,” added the Swede.
Even though Donald, who secured first place on the U.S. PGA Tour money-list in October, is shorter off the tee than Northern Irishman McIlroy, the 42-year-old Karlsson would not rule out the Englishman’s title chances.
“Luke has another weapon that has taken him to the top of the world and that’s his short game,” said the Swede who won the European money-list in 2008.
“Rory may have a huge advantage up to the greens but there is more to the game than that.” (Editing by Alison Wildey)