McIlroy holds nerve for title

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy with his girlfriend Erica Stoll and his trophies after winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to finish the season as Europe's top golfer and retain his Race to Dubai title.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy with his girlfriend Erica Stoll and his trophies after winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to finish the season as Europe's top golfer and retain his Race to Dubai title.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Euro Tour C'ship win his fourth of the year, after holding off threat from Sullivan

DUBAI • Rory McIlroy finished his injury-hit season in style yesterday, with victory in the DP World Tour Championship and his third Race to Dubai title in the last four years.

The Northern Irish golfer carded a final-round 66 to end with a 21-under aggregate score of 267, having begun the day a shot adrift of England's Andy Sullivan at the US$8 million (S$11.3 million) European Tour's season finale.

Playing partner Sullivan's 68 left him on 268, one stroke short despite stretching his advantage early on as McIlroy seized control mid-round with seven birdies in 11 holes.

PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE

He (Sullivan) kept holing putt after putt and I kept chipping away, and thankfully I holed a few good ones of my own.

RORY MCILROY, who began the day one shot behind England's Andy Sullivan

The four-time Major winner could even afford to take a drop on the 17th hole after finding the water, recovering to make a 40-foot bogey before sealing victory with a 12-inch par putt on the final green.

"It's probably the longest putt I've ever made for a bogey; I don't think there's been one that's come at a better time, so definitely the best bogey of my career," said McIlroy, who pocketed £2.1 million (S$4.5 million) alongside the Tour Championship and Race to Dubai trophies.

The victory was his fourth of the year and his first since May, after having missed three events including the British Open at St Andrews after rupturing ankle ligaments while playing football in July.

McIlroy's 12th tour title means the 26-year-old also retained the Race to Dubai, formerly known as the Order of Merit and given to Europe's top money earner. He was also victorious in 2012 and last year.

"It's the best way to finish 2015 and I can't wait for next year," said McIlroy, who was full of praise for Sullivan.

"He (Sullivan) kept holing putt after putt and I just kept chipping away, and thankfully I holed a few good ones of my own coming down the stretch," the world No. 3 said.

Sullivan's putting touch, earlier so imperious, fatally deserted him over the closing stretch but he came close to being afforded a belated window of opportunity.

He could have forced at least a play-off but the Englishman's 20-foot birdie attempt on the 18th rolled inches wide.

"I gave it everything on that front nine, I just couldn't quite get the putts to drop on the back nine," he said. "I didn't really hit it close enough again, (but) to come up head-to-head with someone of Rory's quality was absolutely awesome and something that will stick with me for a long time."

It was an impressive result for McIlroy, who needed a controversial exemption to compete in the European Tour's season finale despite not playing enough events.

Danny Willett, his nearest rival, felt that the exemption gave McIlroy an unfair advantage. The Englishman was unable to dislodge the latter from top spot in the money list, a position he has held since finishing fourth in the Masters, before winning the WGC-Cadillac Matchplay three weeks later.

Willett, who had to settle for a six-way tie for fourth on 275, tweeted his congratulations to McIlroy: "Congratulations @McIlroyRory unreal performance under pressure!! Had a great year.. Can't wait to start the new year!!"

South Africa's Branden Grace (67) finished third on 273.

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2015, with the headline 'Mcilroy holds nerve for title'. Print Edition | Subscribe