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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson miss playing in Dubai but European Tour chief takes longview

Keith Pelley would rather have his superstars healthy rather than rush them into competition

Keith Pelley, right, was philosophical about the absence of Rory McIlroy, left, and Henrik Stenson. Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
Keith Pelley, right, was philosophical about the absence of Rory McIlroy, left, and Henrik Stenson. Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson might have been conspicuous by their absence at the Race to Dubai’s finale this week.

But Keith Pelley, the European Tour’s chief executive, is more concerned the two former two-time DP World Tour Championship winners return to full fitness than any sheen that was lost sheen at this year’s event.

In his valedictory news conference, Tommy Fleetwood said the only players of note that had been absent from the end-of-season event had been Stenson and McIlroy.

That is quite a significant “only”. McIlroy finished 13th on the Order of Merit in absentia the end of the tournament at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Stenson, who was similarly feeling the effects of a rib injury, finished in 15th, one year on from lifting the Race title here.

McIlroy has been practising in Dubai in recent weeks, and has even taken to the course at Emirates Golf Club.

“Wish I was playing the [DP World Tour Championship] this morning but it's come a week too early for me to compete,” McIlroy wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning.

Pelley was philosophical about the absence of arguably the two most recognisable players on the Tour for the season finale.

“Rory and I had the dialogue, we've had the dialogue about him needing the rest, about taking the rest of the season off,” Pelley said. “Playing a match with your mates is completely different than playing in a competitive golf tournament. Playing in a golf tournament, getting up, practising, playing four days after you haven't played, you have to definitely be ready.”

Pelley said he had encouraged both players to take the time they need to recuperate.

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“Henrik looked like he was coming last week after he practised, and he was confirmed,” Pelley said. “It looked like he was booking his flight and the very next day, he was practising again, and he got a twinge in the back.

“I said it to Henrik in Turkey [two weeks ago], and I said to Rory McIlroy, the most important thing for the European Tour and global golf is to have our superstars healthy and playing at the best they possibly can be. So take time to get healthy.

“So I totally respect Rory's decision. But it is a fundamental difference between hitting balls and playing a fun round with your mates than it is playing in a competitive tournament.”

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