DUBAI // And so the coronation is complete. Rory McIlroy, already Race to Dubai champion, produced a performance yesterday that not only sealed the week’s second trophy, but sent America into Twitter frenzy and cemented comparisons with Tiger Woods in his pomp.
Even a new course record from Justin Rose, his Ryder Cup teammate, could not derail his strut to golfing greatness.
Just like he did when securing a second major in August, on this final day at Jumeirah Golf Estates McIlroy borrowed the trademark Woods red, yet this is a man conjuring a history all of his own.
“It’s actually the last clean T-shirt I had, that’s the honest truth,” said McIlroy as he celebrated becoming the DP World Tour Championship’s latest victor.
His beautifully understated response was wildly out of sync with the brilliance that underscored the 2012 European Tour season, McIlroy closing with five successive birdies to overtake Rose at the top of the Earth Course leaderboard and offer a fitting finale.
Five birdies to carry him to a quintet of titles in the most awe-inspiring of campaigns; the world No 1 is without doubt the game’s leading light.
McIlroy’s final round concluded at six-under par despite three bogeys, but it would take rather more than those to blot a total of 23-under, a two-stroke triumph and a combined cheque for US$2.33 million (Dh8.5m).
“I’ve played so well throughout the year and didn’t want to just let it tail off timidly,” he said. “I wanted to come here and finish in style, and was able to do that.
“I somehow summoned the energy from somewhere to make five birdies in the last five holes – just a great way to end the tournament and the season. I’m already excited about 2013.”
His rivals, reduced yesterday merely to gushing fans, may not be.
McIlroy began the afternoon together with Luke Donald at the head of the field, but the expected duel in the sun was gatecrashed by a resurgent Rose.
The Englishman’s eagle on 14 thrust him into the lead, the highlight of a barely believable 62, or 10-under par.
An anxious wait followed his 100-foot putt on 18 that narrowly missed for an eagle, Rose then hanging around to witness McIlroy’s late masterclass.
“I thought it was going to be good,” Rose said. “I saw Rory had gone birdie, birdie and put the squeeze on. But I knew that’s what Rory does.”
With Donald suffering a sinus affection that requires surgery – he eventually finished tied-third – all that was left for the world No 2 was to pay tribute to the only person ahead of him in the rankings.
“Obviously Rory has been the best player all year and that was some finish,” Donald said.
“You have to give him a lot of credit for digging deep. He’s proved, once again, he’s the best player in the world.
“He’ll be around for a long time but it’s good, he’ll push me to work harder.”
Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, immediately below Donald on the leaderboard, compared McIlroy to Woods in his prime and, in true Tiger tongue, the double Dubai champion laid out plans for sustained domination.
“Every goal I set myself at the start of 2012 I’ve achieved,” the 23-year-old Northern Irishman said.
“I wanted to win a major, win four times around the world. I got five, won the Race to Dubai and got to world No 1.
“The same [for 2013]. To be focused on the majors, try to win one more.
“I’ve won one in 2011 [US Open], one in 2012 [US PGA Championship]; it would be nice to keep that run going.
“I’ll just try to keep improving as a player. I feel I can improve in different areas of the game still. I guess that’s the challenge.”
In a season when almost all has been achieved, McIlroy’s proudest feat may be his ability to succeed in second gear.
“Being able to win not with your best game is what Tiger has done for so many years. That’s why he’s won so many tournaments,” he said.
“I’m definitely not at that level yet. But I’m learning how to do it.”
Golf’s glittering star is learning fast.
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