It’s been somewhat of a tumultuous year for Rory McIlroy, who kicked off 2015 hoping to carry over his form from 2014, when he captured two majors, but it was interrupted mid-season with a freak ankle injury in a friendly “kickabout.” The world no. 3 started the year with a win at the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic in January and he ended 2015 with yet another victory in the desert at the DP World Championship to cap off what was somewhat of a lost year.
For the second time in McIlroy’s career, he completed a Dubai double, meaning he won the tournament, along with the season-long Race to Dubai crown for the third time in four years.
McIlroy, who was engaged in an epic duel with Andy Sullivan, nearly threw the tournament away with a “horrendous” shot into the water on the 17th, but then recovered with an incredible putt to capture the tournament.
The Northern Irishman produced a magnificent six under par 66 to come out on top at the end of a captivating final round, overhauling overnight leader Sullivan and withstanding the pressure of Danny Willett, the only player who could prevent him winning The Race to Dubai.
McIlroy and Sullivan traded four birdies and a bogey apiece on the front nine, before McIlroy moved up a gear on the back nine as his rival began to run out of steam. He left the door ajar when he hit his tee shot in the water on the par three 17th, but made arguably the best bogey of his life, holing a putt from 35 feet to retain the lead before sealing victory with a par at the last.
“I knew today wasn’t going to be easy,” said McIlroy. “Andy was playing phenomenal golf over the first three days and from what little I saw on TV, it didn’t look like he was missing many putts. Then the birdie on 12 was huge to tie the lead, and then the two birdies on 14 and 15, when he didn’t make them, that gave me a nice little cushion going into the last three holes. Thankfully I rolled that putt in on 17. I guess if I had been tied playing the last, I would have backed myself with my length, but giving myself that one-shot cushion made a huge difference.”
The 26-year-old came into the week with a 1,614-point lead over Willett in the Race to Dubai and needed to match whatever his rival did, but sealed his position emphatically in a repeat of 2012, the year he first won the season-long money list.
“If hadn’t have won I wouldn’t have been happy,” McIlroy said. “Of all the goals I wrote down at the start of the season, this is the one I’ve achieved. This the first time I’ve won since May and I couldn’t think of a better way to go into the Christmas break. The last few events, I’ve come off t frustrated because I really felt I could do better. But I guess I saved the best for last. I’ve finally showed this week what was in there.”
While McIlroy walked away from the year with no majors, ending it with a double win will likely ease the frustration and disappointment a bit.
“I’m happy that this was my last event of the year and I’ve done really well and I’ve ended the season on a high,” he said. “I’m happy to put the clubs away for a while. I’ve played really good golf this week, 13 under par weekend, I couldn’t think of a better way to finish the season. I feel like my game and my putting has been gradually progressing throughout these last few weeks. It was nice to hole some putts over the weekend.”
McIlroy will have some much-deserved time off over the holidays before he returns to action on the European Tour’s 2016 season-opener in Abu Dhabi.