Danny Willett out to chase down Rory McIroy

Danny Willett

Danny Willett

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Danny Willett wants to be in touching distance of Race To Dubai leader Rory McIlroy heading into the final European Tour event of the season.

European number two Willett is out to chase down McIlroy’s 399,385 point lead with three tournaments remaining.

And the Sheffield golfer has got off to a great start at the WGC - HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai, sitting tied for fifth after the first round.

His opening round 65 was three shots better than McIlroy and two shots shy of overnight leader Branden Grace on -9.

Willett has sat within the top two spots in the Race to Dubai all season after winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge last December.

And he is hoping to make that count by reclaiming top spot from McIlroy at the death.

“We’ve not dropped out of the top two on the Order of Merit all year,” he said.

“I suppose when you win Nedbank, that’s a pretty good leapfrog on everyone at the beginning of the season.

“It’s been nice to be up there.

“I think Rory overtook us somewhere in the middle and we’ve been trying to claw our way back ever since.

“It’s two and a half weeks left to try and claw a little more back.

“We played pretty nicely last week, didn’t lose too much ground and again this week, you have to put yourself somewhere near and see what happens.

“I said, ‘if you can be within touching distance going into Dubai, Dubai could be pretty interesting’.

“If you can do it, great. If you don’t, you’ve been up there and it’s obviously been nice being up there and trying to compete for it.

“Yeah it would be nice come Sunday in Dubai.”

Following the WGC - HSBC Champions, Willett will remain in China for the BMW Masters next week before concluding the season in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship.

Fellow Sheffield golfer Matt Fitzpatrick fired a four under par round of 68 to get his tournament off to a fine start.

Fitzpatrick – looking to secure a top ten finish on the Race To Dubai and a top 50 place in the world rankings – is tied for 16th, five shots off the lead.

He tees off for his second round at 2.30am while Willett is out at 2.25am.