Rory McIlroy overcame sunstroke and a late charge by Ryder Cup teammate Justin Rose to complete a stellar 2012 season with a two-shot victory in his final contest of the season, the World Tour Championship in Dubai.
In notching his first win on the European Tour this year to go with four PGA Tour triumphs, McIlroy put the finishing touches on a year in which he grabbed his second major championship, the money titles on both the PGA and European Tours, and broke the record for single-season Euro Tour earnings with €5,519,117 ($7,160,010). He did so by besting playing partner Luke Donald and Rose, who scorched the Jumeirah Golf Estates course with a final-round, course-record 10-under 62.
While Rose put on an amazing display that included a two-putt for par from some 100 feet, McIlroy, who began the final round tied with Donald for the 54-hole lead, blitzed the field with five consecutive birdies to end his season in sizzling style. His closing 66 (along with 66-67-66) got the world No. 1 to 23-under -- two clear of Rose and four better than Donald and Louis Oosthuizen.
“It’s unbelievable. I said at the start of the week that I wanted to come here and hold two trophies on the 18th green on Sunday evening, and that’s what I’ve managed to do,” McIlroy said after his victory. “I couldn’t have wished for the season to end any better.”
With his position atop the world rankings securely fastened by his fifth career Euro Tour win, perhaps McIlroy can buy Caroline Wozniacki that little bauble she hinted broadly at when she crashed his press conference on Thursday. After all, the two-time major champ credited his tennis star girlfriend with helping him overcome sunstroke by making him hand-squeezed lemon juice. And with rumors flying that the Christmas present Ms Wozzilroy was angling for was an engagement ring, what better time to pop the question than after conquering all of golfkind?
For sure, this was the golfer who lapped the field by eight strokes for his second career major in August at the PGA Championship and not the lethargic one who phoned it in and missed the cut at last week’s Hong Kong Open. After a hectic end to the season -- which kicked off with McIlroy nearly missing his singles tee time at the Ryder Cup, included a made-for-TV exhibition with Tiger Woods in Turkey, and ended in the past four weeks with starts in China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai -- the 23-year-old will have a short off-season to practice with clubs other than those he's used for his entire professional career.
Indeed, with McIlroy and Titleist announcing late last month that their five-year relationship was kaput as of Dec. 31, 2012, the golfer will be sporting his own new trinkets when he kicks off next season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Jan. 17. He has already practiced with the new bats -- reportedly from Nike, thanks to a rumored 10-year, $250 million deal with Woods’ sponsor -- and golf watchers (Nick Faldo in particular) keenly await his debut with unfamiliar sticks.
In the meantime, inquiring minds want to know -- will the young lad take a cue from countryman Graeme McDowell, who got engaged on top of the Dubai helipad, and fit his paramour’s left ring finger with that “really nice Christmas present” for which she so subtly clamored?