x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Michael Hoey finds a route in Race to Dubai

The Northern Irishman well prepared to cash in on Dunhill Links victory.

Michael Hoey would cringe with embarrassment every time he heard Graeme McDowell, his fellow Northern Irishman, describe him as "world class".

Having been forced to go to qualifying school six times in nine years as a professional, it is little wonder the words did not sit comfortably with him.

"It would get back to me that Graeme had said something really nice about me being world class and having massive potential, which was nice, but it was hard to back up when you are missing cuts and skint," Hoey told the Belfast Telegraph in May after he won the Madeira Islands Open.

However, McDowell proved himself to be as accurate as his driving when, on Sunday, the 32-year-old Hoey held off two winners of the US Open to claim the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews in Scotland. Hoey finally showed why so many have such belief in him as he beat Rory McIlroy by two shots to pick up a cheque for €588,148 (Dh2.9m), which lifted him from a lowly 83rd to 15th in the Race to Dubai.

The field included 13 major champions and five of the world's top-six players.

Hoey was a teammate of McDowell and Luke Donald, the world No 1, in 2001, when the Great Britain and Ireland team won a historic first Walker Cup on US soil.

They have since shot to stardom after turning professional. Hoey, on the other hand, has taken his time to get there. "I used to call Michael 'Magico' because that is how he played the game," McDowell said after his final round in Scotland.

"Confidence is an odd thing and maybe he lost a little of his because he's had a few knocks along the way. But, take it from me, there are very few players out there who have more natural talent."

Hoey will now get the chance to compete in the Dubai World Championship.

"It's just amazing what winning a big tournament can do for you," Hoey said in the aftermath of his greatest moment.

"Winning the Dunhill Links will open a lot of doors for me and getting into huge tournaments like the Dubai World Championship is one of the biggest benefits. I can't wait to get to Dubai. It will be a great way to end the season."

ncameron@thenational.ae

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