McIlroy finishes with a flourish in Dubai

Rory McIlroy summed up his day and his year in one word in Dubai on Sunday - "unbelievable".

Golf News: Rory McIlroy

Golf's 23-year-old world number one finished his 2012 with five brilliant birdies to add the DP World Tour Championship to everything else he has achieved.

McIlroy needed something special after Justin Rose had produced something extraordinary - a 10 under par 62 that was not only a course record by two, but also the lowest round of his 14-year European Tour career by two.

At one point Rose had gone from six behind to two in front, but McIlroy didn't just get the better of his head-to-head with world number two Luke Donald, he got the better of Rose too.

When a 12-foot putt went in on the final green for his fifth successive birdie he had shot a third 66 of the week and on 23 under par had won by two for a double worth more than £1.4million.

The tournament victory - his fifth of the year - earned him almost £840,000 - and for topping the European Tour money list, just as he did in America, he collected nearly £630,000.

Not that such figures blow his mind any more. The USPGA champion was playing with Titleist clubs for the last time before switching in a deal with Nike worth a reported £156million over the next 10 years.

He said: "I saw Justin make a charge - I heard the cheers - but to finish like that was great.

"I could not have wished for any better. To back up 2011 with another major (like the first by a runaway eight-shot margin) and to be part of an unbelievable story at the Ryder Cup has made it an incredible year.

"But hopefully I can emulate it or do even better next year!"

He started his burst to the line by chipping to three feet on the long 14th, pitched just as close at the next, then made a 20-foot effort on the following green.

That made him and Rose level and, with the par five 18th, McIlroy was favourite.

But he did not wait until then to go back in front, a five-iron to the difficult 17th - over 200 yards into the wind over water - pulling only six feet from the flag.

It gave him the comfort of being able to lay up on the last and to get down in a pitch-and-putt was only right and proper.

Rose's compensation for second place in both the event and the money list race was not only the £968,000 it brought him. He is now up to a career-high fourth in the world, knocking Lee Westwood out of the top four for the first time in three years.

The 32-year-old also has the memory of perhaps the putt of the year - even if the 35-footer he sank against Mickelson on the 17th hole at the Ryder Cup wins "Shot of the Year" given the circumstances in which it came.

The one he faced from the back of the 18th green was, in his own words, "probably four Mickelsons, maybe five", but actually estimated at around 100 feet given the amount of break involved.

It looked to be stopping on the top of the ridge, but then trickled down to the side of the hole for the easiest of tap-in birdies.

"I knew it was hero or zero there," said the Englishman. "I was one roll away from looking like an idiot.

"I actually got goosebumps. I thought it was going to go in for a second."

Rose played the last six holes in six under with an eagle on the 14th and four birdies, but it was not enough.

Donald finished joint third with South African Charl Schwartzel five strokes behind McIlroy, his 71 including bogeys at the third and 12th after he had gone a remarkable 102 holes on the course without dropping a shot.

The day also contained holes-in-one from Stephen Gallacher at the fourth and Joost Luiten at the sixth and when Sergio Garcia eagled the last for the second time in three days it gave him what was then a course record-equalling 64.

Rose has now set a new mark, but McIlroy is the one everyone else must try to catch in the New Year.

Five highlights from Rory McIlroy's 2012:

Honda Classic, Florida, March 3

Tiger Woods closes with a 62, but with a 69 for a two-shot victory McIlroy takes over from Luke Donald as world number one for the first time. Two months short of his 23rd birthday he is the youngest to top the rankings since Woods. Donald would get the spot back three times, but since August the Northern Irishman has reigned supreme and opened a huge lead.

USPGA Championship, South Carolina, August 12

After four missed cuts in five starts and then a disappointing Open McIlroy answer his critics in the best way possible, winning the last major of the year by eight shots just as he had the US Open in 2011. It is the biggest margin of victory since the event switched from match play to stroke play in 1958, beating Jack Nicklaus' seven-shot win in 1980.

BMW Championship, Indiana, September 9

A week after capturing the second of the FedEx Cup play-off events he does it again in the third leg. In a star-studded leaderboard Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood are two strokes back in second and Tiger Woods a further shot back. McIlroy feels somewhat "hard done by" that it does not clinch the $10million cup bonus, but the points are reset for the final week, Brandt Snedeker and he has to settle for "only" $3million.

Ryder Cup, Illinois, September 30

McIlroy is part of an incredible Ryder Cup comeback story. From 10-4 down he sees partner Ian Poulter birdie the last five holes and Europe go into the singles only four points behind. He almost misses the start against Keegan Bradley after a mix-up over his start time, but a State Trooper gets him to the course, he beats the previously unbeaten American and Europe win by a point.

DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, November 25

After clinching the PGA and European Tour money list double with an eagle in Singapore McIlroy could have taken things easy in the final week, but after a closing 62 from Justin Rose the Northern Irishman comes from two behind to win by two with five closing birdies. Despite suffering from sunstroke he has three rounds of 66 and a 67 for a 23 under par total.

 

Leading final positions in the European Tour "Race to Dubai" money list:

1 Rory McIlroy £4,445,925

2 Justin Rose £3,035,589

3 Louis Oosthuizen £2,567,581

4 Peter Hanson £2,435,109

5 Ian Poulter £2,079,331

6 Branden Grace £2,015,889

7 Luke Donald £1,912,004

8 Francesco Molinari £1,784,477

9 Graeme McDowell £1,566,840

10 Paul Lawrie £1,538,907

11 Nicolas Colsaerts £1,406,284

12 Lee Westwood £1,346,441

13 Matteo Manassero £1,284,926

14 Marcel Siem £1,102,673

15 Thorbjorn Olesen £1,054,682

16 Charl Schwartzel £986,270

17 Rafa Cabrera Bello £975,406

18 David Lynn £973,614

19 Jamie Donaldson £926,885

20 Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano £888,277



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