For the second year in a row, Henrik Stenson finished the European Tour’s Race to Dubai in style. The Swede posted a final round 70 to defend his title in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, by two shots, holding off a trio of Ryder Cup teammates.
“It feels fantastic to have won and to do it down here in Dubai, that was such a great place for me last year, and to come back and defend was special,” said Stenson. “I never felt that it was much of an issue not having defended a tournament, but it would be a nice thing to do, and now I managed to achieve even that.
“I’m very pleased with that, and again, to get a win in a strong championship, we have a lot of great players here this week, so there’s always that extra icing on the cake when you win a tournament where you’ve got a strong field and you’re up against some of the world’s best.”
A year ago, Stenson sealed both the Race to Dubai and the season finale at Jumeirah Golf Estates. He was already out of the former contest as Rory McIlroy already wrapped up those honors before the week began. However, Stenson made sure he placed second to the Northern Irishman by winning the first tournament title defense of his European Tour career — it was also his first victory of the year.
As Stenson approached the closing hole of the Earth Course, McIlroy was one of the three players in the clubhouse at 14-under after his eight-footer for birdie burned the edge on the 72nd hole. Rory posted a closing round of 68.
“Today was okay,” said McIlroy. “I obviously didn’t make any bogeys out there, but it was pretty scrappy. I felt the most comfortable with my game on the first day and then I didn’t quite have it for the rest of the week. I’ve got an event coming up in Australia next week, the Australian Open so I’ll try and go there and finish the season off with a win.”
Rory was joined at 14-under by Justin Rose, who missed a birdie opportunity of his own from a similar length and carded a 69. Then, Victor Dubuisson tapped in for birdie after a spectacular bunker shot on 18 to shoot a 69.
Stenson had also been at 14-under with two to play, after rolling in three birdies in the opening seven holes and then making a bogey on the 8th and a double-bogey on the 11th. However, as his Ryder Cup teammates watched from the clubhouse, Stenson hit a superb shot on the par-3 17th to kick-in birdie range. Next, he picked up another shot on the last hole for a winning total of 16-under.
“It feels great,” said Stenson. “I’m exhausted to say the least and it was a tricky day. On the back nine the wind picked up and I didn’t play my best, and I had a shocking hole on 11 and that kind of put me back but I didn’t give up. I was hanging in there and made a couple important par putts on 12 and 16 I would say. That kind of kept me in the ball game and hit it to a foot on 17, and had a one-shot cushion up the last there and hit a lovely pitching wedge that secured it. Very pleased with that.”
This meant Rory couldn’t add a fifth European Tour title to his list of amazing achievement in 2014, but the world no. 1 did snare some more silverware after collecting the Race to Dubai Trophy for the second time in three years.
“It’s a great feeling to know that I’ve played the best golf throughout the season of any of the guys for the second time in three years, it’s really nice. It’s been a fantastic season. Obviously the wins have been great but I think what I’m really proud of is weeks like this week where I haven’t quite played my best but still be able to give myself a chance to win tournaments, and that’s really what I think will stand me in good stead going forward and looking into 2015 and beyond, having these bad weeks where previously I might have missed cuts, I’m still contending for tournaments and that’s exciting.
The Open and PGA Champion ended the season-long contest with 7,149,503 points, finishing 2,168,410 ahead of runner-up Stenson.
McIlroy is already looking forward to April, where he has the chance to complete the career grand slam at The Masters.
“I’m excited about the new season ahead,” he said. “Everything will be geared toward getting ready for Augusta and being ready for April. I’m looking forward to it – I’ve got a chance to win the career Grand Slam at 25, so there is a lot to work hard on and a lot to try and achieve next year.”
Rose, Jamie Donaldson, Dubuisson and Sergio Garcia completed the top six, which consisted entirely of members of Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup Team.