SHANGHAI // Rory McIlroy's strong finish to the season means he will go into the season-ending Dubai World Championship confident he can claim the inaugural title. The Northern Irishman, 20, carded a brilliant course-record final round of nine-under-par 63 to finish three shots adrift of the winner Phil Mickelson at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai on Sunday. It trimmed Lee Westwood's lead at the top of the Race to Dubai - what was the European Tour's Order of Merit - to 52,320 (Dh288,000) with just two events remaining after leapfrogging Martin Kaymer into second place.
With Westwood and McIlroy heading to Hong Kong this week as Kaymer heads to Germany to rest and for further treatment on a foot injury, the race for the Harry Vardon trophy will still go down to Dubai later this month. After winning his maiden European Tour title with victory in the Dubai Desert Classic at the start of the year, McIlroy is in the hunt for a maiden order of merit title in just his second full season as a professional.
"It certainly gives me momentum going into the next two weeks," said McIlroy. "I'm feeling a lot better about my game than I was" "It's a springboard into the next two weeks and I'm looking forward to it. I've been working hard, my ball striking wasn't the best over the first few days. I hit it poorly on Thursday and as the week progressed I hit it gradually better and better and then everything just clicked into place.
"I hit my irons well and got it up and down when I needed to. In the end it was just a very, very solid final round." McIlroy lit up the final-round leader board with seven birdies and the only bogey of his round over his first eight holes, in sharp contrast to Mickelson and Tiger Woods, who found low scoring tough. * PA sport