Rory McIlroy has not given up hope of winning a fourth Race to Dubai title in spite of facing a massive deficit to Open champion Francesco Molinari.
McIlroy is almost two million points behind Molinari and needs to win at least one of the remaining two events to overhaul the Italian, who enjoys a lead of just over one million points from Ryder Cup partner and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood.
McIlroy has twice won the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai but has not played in this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge since 2009, when he was forced to withdraw after two rounds with a stomach virus.
Victory at Sun City would at least take the Northern Irishman to second on the money list and see him paired with Molinari for the opening round in Dubai, where players tee off in Race to Dubai order.
“I’m coming here with the goal that if I can get into that final group on Thursday with Frankie next week, that would be a good start,” said McIlroy, who has not won a European Tour event since the 2016 Irish Open.
“I can’t look too far ahead, but if I can do what I need to do this week, leapfrog a few guys and get into that final pair on Thursday, that would be a huge step.
“I’m going to need some great golf over the next two weeks, but we’ll see what happens this week.
“I feel like my game is in pretty good shape. I didn’t play great in China but I’ve had a week off and (have been) just sort of reflecting on things. Hopefully I can get off to a good start this week.”
McIlroy won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March, but has also played in the last group in the final round six times in 2018 - including in the Masters and Tour Championship - without claiming more silverware.
“I’ve played good golf, I’ve played consistent golf, and I’ve played in six final groups this year but I haven’t had a win out of any of those final groups,” McIlroy added. “I think I played in four final groups in the previous two years combined, so it’s better.
“It’s progressing, but I probably let a few slip through my fingers in terms of tournaments won. Dubai earlier this year, Wentworth a little bit, and the Masters, obviously. There’s a few I feel like I could have challenged a bit more for.
“But overall it’s been a consistent year. I’ve improved my world ranking since the start of the year and I have a chance to get back into the top five this week and next week, and it would be a solid year.
“It wouldn’t have been the year that I would have envisioned at the start but you’re not going to have those years every single year that you play. All I can do is just keep practising and working hard and hopefully the results come.”