Race to Dubai: Rory McIlroy has 'advantage' - Danny Willett

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy finished joint 11th in his last European Tour appearance at the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai this month

Danny Willett says Rory McIlroy will be fresher than his rivals at Thursday's deciding Race to Dubai tournament.

McIlroy has special permission to play in the DP World Tour Championship even though he has not played 13 events, the requirement to remain in the series.

He leads Willett by 1,613 points, with a euro in prize money earning a point.

"I appreciate him playing makes a massive difference for the Tour, but certainly he has an advantage over guys who have played more," Willett said.

Recent Race to Dubai winners
2014: Rory McIlroy (NI)
2013: Henrik Stenson (Swe)
2012: Rory McIlroy (NI)
2011: Luke Donald (Eng)
2012: Martin Kaymer (Ger)

McIlroy, winner of the Race to Dubai's Harry Vardon Trophy in two of the past three years, chose not to compete at last week's BMW Masters in Shanghai.

The world number three has played in 11 events this season, with Willett appearing in twice as many.

"There's a lot of travelling, a lot of golf, time changes, sleeping patterns - everything like that can really take its toll, especially at the end of a season," Willett, 28, said.

"At the beginning of the season, maybe not, but this is the 52nd week of the season, and I think having had a week off might have benefited him."

Recent World Tour Championship winners
2014: Henrik Stenson, 16 under (won by two strokes)
2013: Henrik Stenson, 25 under (six strokes)
2012: Rory McIlroy, 23 under (two strokes)

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley cited "exceptional circumstances" in granting McIlroy permission to remain on the money list, and Willett believes it was fair.

"If rules were allowed to be broken all the time, then there's no point in setting them in the first place, but in that case it's a very difficult one to get correct and it was the first decision Keith had to make in becoming the chief executive of the Tour," he said.

"I think he made the correct decision."

Sweden's Henrik Stenson has won the season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai for each of the past two years, finishing on 16-under last year, two shots ahead of McIlroy, with Willett sharing 21st place.

McIlroy has recorded five top-five finishes in six appearances at the Jumeirah Golf Estates, including a victory in 2012 that sealed his first Race to Dubai title.

"I'd gladly take the trophy and they can keep the money and do whatever they want with it," said McIlroy. "It's more about trying to win the Race to Dubai again. It's always a goal of mine."

As well as McIlroy and Englishman Willett, Justin Rose, Shane Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace and Byeong-hun An all have a mathematical chance of claiming the prize.