Paul Casey's hopes of winning the inaugural Race to Dubai, which concludes with the lucrative Dubai World Championship (DWC) later this month, was cast into serious doubt yesterday when the powerful Englishman was again struck down by a rib injury. Casey, twice winner of the Abu Dhabi Championship, had spoken confidently of adding the US$7.5million (Dh27.5m) DWC title to his Middle East honours and, despite a three-month lay off earlier this year because of the rib problem, he had maintained a creditable fifth position in the $7.5m Race to Dubai - previously the European Tour's Order of Merit - going into this weekend's WGC-HSBC Championship in Shanghai.
After two holes of yesterday's final round of an event won by the world No 2 Phil Mickelson, Casey felt sharp pains in his intercostal muscle and opted to walk off the Sheshan course. His manager Guy Kinnings said: "He's had pain before but he felt it severe enough to realise that it was something different. We always agreed that if he felt that, he would stop. So I'm going to get him back to America tonight to see a specialist he's been working with.
"The specialist is sufficiently concerned to want to see him straight away. A recurrence of the injury will mean he will be out for a while again but if it's just a worrying tweak he should be OK." Casey, 32, will make a decision next week about his commitments for the DWC, which starts on Greg Norman's Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 19. He was eight shots behind the overnight leader Mickelson when he made the agonising decision to quit. Mickelson, who had taken a two-shot advantage into the final round, held himself together during a nerve-racking finish to edge out the resurgent Ernie Els by a single stroke.
Shortly after signing for a clinching 69 for a 17-under-par aggregate of 271, Mickelson was asked whether he planned to discuss his winning formula with Tiger Woods when the world's two leading players return to the United States. Mickelson, mindful that Woods had now made three unsuccessful visits to the Chinese showpiece event, kept a straight face and said he thought not. He admitted, however: "It feels great to have won this tournament when going head-to-head with Tiger".
Mickelson pointed out, though, that Woods was below his best at Sheshan for what was an eagerly anticipated shootout between the two fierce rivals. A massive gallery of 7,500 set off to follow Mickelson, Woods and a third American, Nick Watney, only to find themselves watching a series of mishaps. Woods was in the canal at the fourth and, after a double-bogey there, dropped two more shots to be four over after six. "It was a day when everything that could go wrong did go wrong," said the world No 1 afterwards.
Mickelson had back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and fifth which saw him dipping to 13 under on the early leaderboard. All the fireworks were coming from those ahead. Rory McIlroy, who had started the day down in 17th place, had seven birdies in his first eight holes, while he and Els were out in 30. Els was 13 under at that point and, by the time he left the 17th green, he was 17 under and in possession of a one-shot lead over Mickelson. Finding water at the last proved catastrophic for the South African, leaving Mickelson to make what was a rough-strewn par for victory.
McIlroy's chase up the leader-board was nothing short of electrifying and tremendously morale-boosting for the young Irishman. A year ago at this point, he finished in the top 40 in Europe. Now, only Lee Westwood is ahead of him in the Race to Dubai. firstname.lastname@example.org