x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Peter Hanson's quiet Race to Dubai

Rory McIlroy should watch out for the in-form Swede ahead of the DP World Tour Championship in November, writes John McAuley.

Rory McIlroy, in blue, who lost to Peter Hanson in the BMW Masters, will be absent from the WGC-HSBC Champions this week. Mark Ralston / AFP
Rory McIlroy, in blue, who lost to Peter Hanson in the BMW Masters, will be absent from the WGC-HSBC Champions this week. Mark Ralston / AFP

Beware the silent assassin. Only three weeks remain until Rory McIlroy's predicted anointment at Jumeirah Golf Estates, yet his quest to rubber-stamp a staggering season could be derailed by his most understated of peers.

If McIlroy represents golf's explosive new age, its flashy BMW – Graeme McDowell has labelled his compatriot the "ultimate driving machine" – then Peter Hanson, safe and reliable, is its Volvo.

However, on Sunday the Swede moved through the gears in Shanghai to emerge victorious from a final-round showdown with McIlroy, climbing to No 17 in the world and, more significantly, ahead of this month's DP World Tour Championship, second in the Race to Dubai standings.

A win this weekend and Hanson will find himself in pole position to decorate his best campaign as a professional with the European No 1 trophy. McIlroy, currently €812,572 (Dh3.88m) in front and sitting out the WGC-HSBC Champions, should be keeping a keen eye on his Ryder Cup teammate.

"With Rory not playing this week, the rest of us know we are playing for a big purse again and we can apply some pressure on him going into Dubai," Hanson said ahead of the US$7 million (Dh25.7m) event starting tomorrow at Mission Hills, China. "It would be great if I could do that and have a chance of making that top spot.

"The way Rory plays at the moment it will be tough, but it keeps it interesting and I'm sure Justin Rose and Branden Grace will be thinking the same."

With his one-stroke victory at Lake Malaren, Hanson nudged the in-form Rose from second in the Race, while Grace, now a Dubai resident, has underscored his return to the European Tour this season with four victories.

Hanson, 35, has enjoyed an impressive 2012, too. Top-five finishes in the year's opening two WGC events preceded tied-third at the US Masters and tied-seventh at the US PGA Championship. In September, the KLM Open provided a first trophy of the year.

He also contributed to Europe's stunning comeback at the Ryder Cup, before the usually serene Swede uncharacteristically aired his grievances at being benched on the Saturday at Medinah.

He responded, though, with last week's accomplished triumph at the BMW Masters.

Hanson, the dependable Volvo, has a new drive to succeed. McIlroy will realise it is the quiet ones you have to watch out for.


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