Rory McIlroy won the Dubai World Championship by two strokes on Sunday after finishing with five straight birdies to shoot a 6-under-par 66, ending a year in which he won the PGA Championship and the European and PGA tour money titles.
The top-ranked Northern Irishman recovered from some early putting woes to total of 23-under 265 at the season-ending tournament to beat Justin Rose of England, who shot a course-record 62 that included an eagle and eight birdies.
”I just wanted to finish the season the way I thought I deserved to finish the season,” McIlroy said after after his second European title this year and fifth overall. ”You know, I played so well throughout the year, and I didn’t want to just let it tail off, sort of, timidly. I wanted to come here and finish in style.”
McIlroy’s victory Sunday also means he overtakes Tiger Woods as the all-time leading money earner in a single season. Woods amassed a combined PGA and European Tour earning of $11,557,729 in 2007. McIlroy is now $395,857 ahead of the American.
”It doesn’t really get any better than that,” said McIlroy, whose tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki watched on from the media gallery.
”I guess the same,” McIlroy said. ”To be focused on the majors, try to win more of those. I’ve won one in 11 and one in 12. It would be nice to keep that run going next year. To keep improving as a player. I can feel like I can improve in different area of the game still."
Second-ranked Luke Donald (71) was joint third with 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa (68) at 270. Compatriot Louis Oosthuizen (69), the 2010 British Open winner, was a further shot back in fifth place.
The day was supposed to be a duel between McIlroy and Donald, who were joint leaders after the third round. It never happened.
The Englishman took an early two-shot lead when McIlroy bogeyed No. 1 and Donald birdied the following hole.
But Donald three-putted No. 3 to end a run of 102 holes on the Earth Course without a bogey. Donald then had another bogey on No. 12 to fall three back and never challenged after that, missing the green on No. 17 to put an end to his title bid.
”All runs come to an end,” Donald said. ”But again, I struggled to get any momentum today. I felt a little flat and, unfortunately, I couldn’t get anything going. And, you know, Justin put on quite a show in front us and nudged Rory enough to get him going.”
Rose started the day joint seventh and just kept moving up the leaderboard.
”It was a lot of fun, absolutely,” Rose said. ”The front nine was just as good as the back nine, and the back nine, putts started going in, which is a nice feeling. I knew I was playing my way into the tournament, more than into he tournament but into the lead.”
Rose pulled within one of McIlroy with a birdie on 13 and then moved ahead with an eagle on No. 14 after his approach shot rolled to within 10 feet. He sank the putt to lead for the first time in the tournament and doubled his advantage when McIlroy three-putted on No. 13. Rose had another birdie on 15 before his 60-foot eagle putt on 18 slowly rolled over a hump and came within inches of the cup — setting off a gasp from the gallery.
He then had to wait.
”I thought it was going to be good, to be honest,” Rose said of his 275 total. ”I caught a glimpse of the board walking to the 18th tee. I saw Rory had gone birdie, birdie and he’s putting the squeeze on. But I knew that is what Rory does. . . . He has a par 5 to play, and 18 is no gimmie by any chance. But 16, 17 — not easy holes. It’s one birdie for the playoff.”
Schwartzel and Oosthuizen had a chance to catch Rose but their putters let them down in the final holes — with Oostuizen bogeying 17 and Schwartzel missing an easy birdie chance on 17. McIlroy, in contrast, was just getting going.
”I was one behind Justin playing 14 and 3-putting there. I was behind with five holes to play and I thought, you know, while he’s 20 under, I’m 18. I’ve got three good birdie chances,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy just missed an eagle on 14 after a good up-and-down and settled for birdie. After a great drive on No. 16, he hit a pitching wedge 150 yards to within 20 feet of the pin and sunk the birdie.
”That was big putt to tie the lead,” he said.
At No. 17, McIlroy probably hit the shot of his tournament, landing a 5-iron within a few feet of the pin.
”The most pleasing shot for me on that stretch was the iron shot on 17,” he said. ”I think that was big shot. You could easily be a lot right into the bunker and leave yourself a tricky up-and down. I committed to it and hit a great shot and followed it with a great putt for birdie to give myself that cushion going into the last."