Race is on and value available

  • By: David John
  • Last Updated: November 19 2013, 15:30 GMT

David John is backing Rory McIlroy to rediscover his best and join Ian Poulter in challenging for the 2014 Race To Dubai.

Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter look the value
Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter look the value

Another compelling Race To Dubai has come to a conclusion and a bit like the National Hunt season in horse racing, we barely have time to draw breath before we are under way once more for 2014 in South Africa.

Five of the first six events take place there with big pots in particular at the Nedbank Challenge and Volvo Golf Champions on offer for those hoping to make a fast start in the year long dash for the cash in a bid to be crowned Europe's top performer.

I have to admit I am finding this an increasingly difficult preview to write.

The big names spend their time playing what is now truly a global game - gone are the days when the top stars from Europe would only cross the pond to play in major championships.

So trying to assess how a schedule will accurately play out for the market leaders is tricky while the lucrative Final Series on the European Tour has highlighted how you can make giant strides up the standings very quickly if hitting form at exactly the right time.

Throw in as well the extra element of 2014 being a Ryder Cup year.

So rather than trying to tie myself in knots second guessing who will be where and when, lets establish some clear criteria.

We need a player in the top 50 of the world rankings who gets into all the biggest and best events with the potential to win or at very least closely contend multiple times in the majors and WGC events before the final push to the summit in the aforementioned Finals Series.

So to some contenders and the betting is headed by Rory McIlroy at what could be a generous 6/1 in 12 months time.

Rory has a couple more events to play this calendar year - in Australia and at Tiger's invite-only tournament in California - and I have finally started to believe he could go very close to a victory.

That potentially would see his odds change pretty dramatically for the Race To Dubai and salvage a year that has fallen well short of expectations.

There is no need to revisit old ground as to the reasons why but it seems that McIlroy is finally moving in the right direction - and importantly, believes that himself.

He finished the last two tournaments in the Race To Dubai this year T6-T5 and said after the latter in the Middle East: "For the most part I'm just really happy that my game is back where I want it to be and that's all I really care about."

Very few, if any, golfers go through a career without a bump in the road and with what he has accomplished in the game so far, it is sometimes easy to forget that Rory is still some months shy of his 25th birthday.

So that means he is frighteningly still not at his peak and has plenty of improvement still in him. When he does get his game back, we know that he will be contending for majors and WGC events.

Bear in mind as well that he is only a season removed from winning the Race To Dubai with a total of €5,519,118 which was almost €2,000,000 clear of his nearest rival and although I am not a huge fan of the phrase, the sky really does remain the limit for the Ulsterman.

A discussion with a very shrewd judge the other day led us to the conclusion that Ian Poulter was overpriced at 12/1 so it would be remiss not to suggest backing him at 14s.

Poulter produced a gung-ho finish to the 2013 season in his bid to try and catch Henrik Stenson down the stretch and his odds look generous in terms of him going one place better this time around.

He spoke during the final week in Dubai of how much a European Tour Order Of Merit would mean to him at some stage while also talking about how he felt he was swinging the club as well as at any time in his career.

He heads into a Ryder Cup year at the top of his game then and with that event in mind, it was interesting to see captain Paul McGinley say that he would not be an automatic selection for his side and would have to prove himself as much as the next man.

With the start he has made to qualification, it seems unthinkable that Poulter will not be at Gleneagles considering as well his heroics in the last renewal in the United States but it is another little piece of extra motivation that the Englishman seems to thrive on.

It can sit alongside his quest for that elusive first major while Poulter also really seemed to embrace the Final Series as he worked out his schedule to play all four events with a sparkling run of T15-2-T5-2.

It showed his determination to go all out with the big prizes on the line and it might be case of the pack chasing him in the closing stages if he has the kind of year I think he is capable of producing.

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