2012: The Year of Wee-Mac
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour

Take that, guys!

For those who still had lingering questions–particularly during his “mini-slump” in May/June–whether or not Rory McIlroy was the real deal, his performance in the second-half of 2012 has surely quieted any skeptics. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland finished the year in style, closing with five straight birdies to win the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Championship.

(Oh, by the way, sorry this post is a few days late–I’ve been battling migraines (the worst!), so unfortunately I missed the coverage of Rory’s epic performance in Dubai.)

McIlroy’s achievements in 2012 include five victories — the Honda Classic, where he overtook Luke Donald for the world No. 1 ranking; the PGA Championship, the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Championship, and of course, Sunday’s finale in the desert — the PGA Tour and European Tour money titles, the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average, PGA of America’s Player of the Year, and he’s expected to be named the PGA Tour Player of Year Award at the end of the month.

The final round was supposed to be a duel between Rory and Donald, the words no. 1 and 2, who were tied going into Sunday, but Justin Rose shot a backdoor 62 to set a course record at the Earth Course.

Via the AP game story:

“I just wanted to finish the season the way I thought I deserved to finish the season,” McIlroy said after holing a birdie on 18 and raising his arms in the air in celebration. “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.”

Um, mission accomplished.

Now, Donald, who had a front-row seat to the performance, compared Rory to Tiger in his prime, according to

Donald, who faded for a share of third with Charl Schwartzel, went even further. “That was like Tiger Woods in his prime,” said the world No. 2. “To able to do that when needed, that is the sign of a great.

“It was extremely impressive and it shows us all how hard we will have to work to stay up with him.”

Are the comparisons to Tiger a bit of a reach? Does Rory have what it takes to challenge Jack Nicklaus’ record for majors? Honestly, I get sick of those questions (though I realize that major titles is the barometer we have for distinguishing the best players in history).

I’ve always been a big Rory believer — ever since I saw him swing for the first time in person at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. When you’ve watched enough golf, it’s not hard to immediately recognize a guy that has the X-factor or something that separates him from just being a “good” or “average” player.

Rory is done for 2012, so no, he’s not playing in Tiger’s member-guest this week in California.

(AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)