Aiken in search of share of Dubai bonus pool

Thomas Aiken survived a brush with a tough golf course at the weekend and is now looking to get into the top 15 of the 2011 Race to Dubai so he can share in the spoils of the $7,5-million bonus pool at the end of the season.

Aiken, who finished fifth behind winner Lee Slattery in the Bankia Madrid Masters, was sharply critical of the El Encín Golf Hotel course, which is only months old and hosted the European Tour event.

“You can’t love every golf course,” said Aiken, “and I’d rather be truthful about it, than let a false impression get out there.”

His performance in difficult circumstances saw him edge up into 17th spot in the Race to Dubai with winnings for the season of €803,995. That leaves him €48,443 adrift of that 15th position, and he has a busy run-in to that final to make up the deficit.

“I’m really looking forward to Portugal this week, and I’m really looking forward to Valderrama after that – I love that golf course,” he said.

“And then I’ve got a few in the Far East – HSBC, Barclays Singapore Open, and then two weeks at home – which will be nice – with the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the SA Open Championship. There’s still a long way to go in the season,” he said in Madrid at the weekend.

Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey is the man in 15th position, and Ian Poulter is between him and Aiken. And the players lined up behind Aiken make for an impressive list: Peter Hanson, Francesco Molinari, Matteo Manassero, YE Yang, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Mark Foster and Louis Oosthuizen go down to 25th spot.

Aiken’s performance was his first top-10 finish since his ninth place finish in the Iberdrola Open in May – and that came a week after his maiden European Tour victory. Since then, he missed three cuts, failed to qualify for the US Open, and only finished inside the top 30 in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship two weeks ago.

“I went wandering for a few months, but it’s nice to be back,” he said.

Talking about his encounter with the El Encín Golf Hotel course, Aiken had some thoughts on the modern way of course design. “A lot of modern course these days, they’re overdoing it – the severity of the slopes on the greens,” he said. “And that means you can’t get the greens as quick as you’d want to make them, because they’re unplayable if they’re quick.

“It was just a challenging week, and, especially today, the pin placements were really tough, and if you hit it in a bunker it plugged. And the TV doesn’t do the slopes on the greens justice,” he added.

But survive it all he did, and he’s got his chance at that exclusive top-15 position. “All in all, I’m happy with the week. It’s nice to have another good finish. I’m trying to push for that top 15 and I hope this helps a little bit towards it,” he said.

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