Updated at: 11/07/2012 5:35 PM
By JUSTIN BERGMAN
(AP) SINGAPORE - With his closest rivals sitting on the sidelines, Rory McIlroy can wrap up the European Tour money title with a strong showing at this week’s Singapore Open.
The Northern Irishman already has claimed the U.S. PGA Tour money list and is looking to emulate Luke Donald’s 2011 feat of capturing both money titles in the same season.
"I’m in the lead at the moment and it would be nice to increase that," McIlroy said Wednesday, a day before the tournament. "There’s still a lot to play for in the next three weeks and I want to finish off the season as strong as possible."
McIlroy has a lead of about $1 million over Swedish golfer Peter Hanson, who beat him by a stroke in Shanghai two weeks ago to climb to second in the Race to Dubai standings. But Hanson has opted out of playing in Singapore.
The next three golfers on the money list also are not competing this week: Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, the winner at last weekend’s HSBC Champions, and Branden Grace.
British Open champion Ernie Els had been in the sixth spot, but his name was dropped from the list this week because he hasn’t played the required number of tournaments.
South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Italy’s Francesco Molinari, sixth and seventh in the standings respectively, are taking part in Singapore.
Three-time Singapore champion Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie, John Daly and Miguel Angel Jiminez are also teeing it up at the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club.
This weekend’s winner receives $1 million. McIlroy is also competing at next week’s Hong Kong Open, while most of his top challengers are again sitting out.
McIlroy chose not to play last week at the HSBC Champions, a decision that was publicly questioned by the sponsor.
Tiger Woods, ranked second to McIlroy, also declined to play in Shenzhen days after they took part in a head-to-head exhibition event in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou.
McIlroy preferred to be courtside in Bulgaria last week, watching girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki reach the final of the WTA’s Tournament of Champions, while Woods traveled to Singapore briefly for corporate commitments.
McIlroy defended his decision Wednesday, saying his schedule this autumn has been exhausting and he’s earned the right to be choosier about his events.
"I can’t play every week. If I had I would have played five in a row finishing the season and after playing Turkey and Ryder Cup and all the FedEx Cup stuff, it’s just too much," he said.
"You have to say no and you have to be selfish sometimes and look after yourself; it doesn’t make you a bad person," he added. "You have got to put yourself first and foremost, and try fit in the things you want to do. I’m in the fortunate position where I can dictate where I want to play, what I want to do, where I want to go."
Mickelson understands how tough it is for McIlroy and Woods to manage their schedules given how much they are in demand.
"We certainly want to help promote the game and drive the game throughout the world, but Tiger’s just one person, and I think it’s a little unrealistic for every tournament and every sponsor in every city in every country to expect him to be able to play every week," he said.
Mickelson said he’s finally playing well again after struggling earlier this season, and he likes his chances in Singapore, especially coming off the HSBC Champions, where he finished tied for second, two strokes behind Poulter.
"I’ve had a really tough three or four months, when I played some of the worst golf in my career," he said. "It’s turning out to be one of the best things that have happened for me because it forced me to analyze my game and dissect it and put each part back."
Scott, winless this year on the European and U.S. tours, was also looking to end his season on a positive note. He may have his best shot in Singapore, given his previous victories here in 2005, 2006 and 2010.
"My game is in good shape, I have played a lot of good golf this year," he said. "Getting to the point now that I am getting a little desperate to win a tournament. There are not that many left and this one would be a great one for me to do it at."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)