Morikawa, Reed bid to become America’s first European No 1

Collin Morikawa hasn’t hit a golf shot in Europe this year. Indeed, he has only visited the continent twice in his life, both times in 2018.

On Sunday, the American could be crowned as European No. 1 for the 2020 season.

Go figure.

At a time of growing co-operation between the tours on both sides of the Atlantic, it would be fitting if a player who has virtually played solely in the United States becomes the first American to win what was formerly known as the Order of Merit title on the European Tour.

“There’s a lot in between now and Sunday that has to happen,” Morikawa said Wednesday, “but winning the Race to Dubai would mean a lot because I want my game to travel. I want to be a world player.”

The 23-year-old Morikawa, who won the PGA Championship in August in just his second appearance in a major, will play his first regular European Tour event when he competes in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai starting Thursday.

Morikawa took up affiliate membership of the tour in February and would normally need to play in four events to be eligible to win the Harry Vardon Trophy as Europe’s No. 1. However, that requirement was waived this season because of the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The points he has earned in World Golf Championships and the majors have left him in third place in the Race to Dubai standings, behind Patrick Reed and then Tommy Fleetwood. Such are the many strands and quirks to a European Tour season that has become very global in recent years.

“We all got here through some different way,” Morikawa said.

“I don’t want to just play in the U.S. my entire life,” he added. “I want to come out here and experience what it’s like on the European Tour, see what other course are like, see what other players are like, because I feel like my game can travel and we’re going to see how it goes this week.”

Morikawa’s biggest rival at Jumeriah Golf Estates this week is another American.

Reed leads the Race to Dubai standings with 2,427.7 points heading into the 38th and final event of a European Tour season like no other. He climbed to No. 1 on the back of a win at the WGC Mexico Championship and built on that by amassing points from 13th-place finishes at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open, as well as a tie for 10th at the Masters.

“The guys that are on this tour and the guys that are on the PGA Tour that come over and play, it just shows that you have to play well in the big events,” Reed said. “It puts emphasis on playing some great golf, not only just consistent golf throughout the year, but also playing well in the big tournaments.

“And if you’re able to do that, you put yourselves in position to win whether it’s a FedExCup or even winning here in The Race to Dubai.”

Reed was runner-up to Francesco Molinari in the Race to Dubai in 2018.

Tommy Fleetwood, the European No. 1 in 2017, is in second place. He and fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, who is in fourth place, are the only other players who can guarantee becoming champion with a victory this week.

With 2,000 points going to the winner and the player finishing last receiving 30, any of the leading 60 available players in the standings could mathematically become Race to Dubai Champion with a win.

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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