x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Earth will be a tough place for Rory McIlroy

John McAuley explains why the world No 1 is going to face a stiff challenge in Dubai next week despite tremendous success this year.

This year Rory McIlroy has won the US PGA Championship, become world No 1 and helped Europe win the Ryder Cup. Wong Maye-E / AP Photo
This year Rory McIlroy has won the US PGA Championship, become world No 1 and helped Europe win the Ryder Cup. Wong Maye-E / AP Photo

And so the race is run. Rory McIlroy, third in Singapore on Sunday, arrives one week from today on the first tee at Jumeirah Golf Estates as the newly crowned European No 1.

The Northern Irishman acknowledged after four rounds at Sentosa Golf Club that securing the Race to Dubai title ticked the last vacant box of a generous 2012.

This year alone, McIlroy has acquired a second major title – the US PGA Championship, by eight shots – recorded three further victories, risen to the summit of the world rankings, finished as the leading money earner on the US PGA Tour and helped Europe stage a Ryder Cup comeback of epic proportions.

All, on the last count, at a mere 23 years, six months and 11 days. However, his desire to dominate ensures he will not be diminished in Dubai next week.

"The goal is still to try and win at least once more before the end of the season," McIlroy said ahead of his defence of the Hong Kong Open, which starts today and constitutes the penultimate assignment on his calendar.

Yet the impending battle at the DP World Tour Championship is not simply a coronation of the world's best player, nor solely the deserved denouement, however fitting, to his most sumptuous of seasons.

Naturally, McIlroy will form the focus of attention at the Earth Course, the host of the climax to the sprawling 2012 European Tour campaign, but a tournament that gathers together the circuit's 60 most consistent performers, and promises to the winner a bounty of at least US$1.33 million (Dh4.88m), will always captivate the sternest swingers.

This will not be McIlroy's procession. How can it be, when the field includes Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, former winners of the event; Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington, former European No 1s; Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell, recent major champions; or Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, widely acclaimed major-winners-in-waiting?

Add to that the emergent Branden Grace and Nicolas Colsearts, or the resurgent Paul Lawrie and Sergio Garcia, and the dust-up in the desert should provide four days of compelling viewing.

Granted, McIlroy's sustained success guaranteed the race finished early. However, the chase is on to prove the man with the world at his feet will find difficulty in making 2013 as remarkably resplendent as the year that went before it.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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