Rory McIlroy enjoyed a rare bogey-free round to finish joint sixth in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and secure his place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
Having decided not to play in next week’s Turkish Airlines Open, McIlroy had to climb from 62nd in the money list - which he won last year - to inside the top 60 to qualify for Dubai, and did so with plenty to spare.
The former world number one held a two-shot lead after an opening 65, but a second-round 72 ultimately proved costly and a closing 69 left him nine shots behind winner Dustin Johnson.
“It was a good week. It was a step in the right direction for sure,” said McIlroy, who moved up to 38th in the Race to Dubai.
“I don’t think anyone could have competed with Dustin this week. He played very, very well and obviously is a deserved champion.
“I just didn’t make enough birdies. I didn’t take advantage of the par fives today and some of the short par fours.
“It’s probably one of my only bogey-free rounds of the year but it just didn’t contain enough birdies.
“It’s something to build on and nice to go into an off-week now and I know that I’m into Dubai.”
McIlroy, who remains without a win in 2013 after five victories last year, added: “It would have been nice to try to get a win. I have three more tournaments left this year and I want to try to finish the season strongly.
“Obviously I have good memories going to Dubai from winning there last year, so hopefully I can put up a strong defence of my title there.”
Ryder Cup team-mate Luke Donald is not absolutely certain of his place in Dubai, but did move up from 61st to 55th on the standings after finishing joint 31st on six under.
Johnson believes he can win a maiden major title after recovering superbly from seeing his overnight three-shot lead wiped out in just two holes to claim victory.
The American played the last six holes in five under par at Sheshan International Golf Club to card a closing 66 and finish 24 under par, three ahead of defending champion Ian Poulter.
All three members of the final group of Johnson, Poulter and Graeme McDowell shot 66, meaning Poulter finished one ahead of Ryder Cup team-mate McDowell, with Spain’s Sergio Garcia two shots behind in fourth after a closing 63.
US Open champion Justin Rose was fifth on 16 under with McIlroy and Canada’s Graham DeLaet a shot further back on 15 under.
“I didn’t get off to the best start and Poulter and McDowell got off to great starts and put a lot of pressure on me, but I am swinging well and putting well so thought just stick to my game plan and play the golf course how I want to play it and it’s going to come,” Johnson said after claiming his eighth PGA Tour title and the first prize of just over one million euros (£856,000).
“I played really well the last few holes on the front nine and then had a great back nine.
“The guys made it really interesting but I just played really well coming down the stretch. They put a lot of pressure on me but I am really proud of myself and the way I handled it.”
Johnson has not always handled such pressure so well, McDowell famously winning the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach after Johnson squandered a three-shot lead in the final round.
After a triple-bogey on the second hole and double-bogey on the third, Johnson shot a closing 82 and McDowell’s 74 was enough to win by one from France’s Gregory Havret.
“It takes a while to learn that (maturity and patience),” added Johnson, who also missed out on a play-off for the 2011 US PGA Championship after receiving a two-shot penalty on the 72nd hole for grounding his club in a bunker.
“I wish I would have had some of that a few times a few years ago, but you learn from your mistakes and try to get better from them and I think I showed a lot of patience and a lot of discipline with clubs I picked and shot selection.
“This is the biggest win of my career and hopefully there are better things to come. A major is always the next step. If I play like I did this week, I’m going to win one for sure.”
I grew up right down the street from Augusta (venue for the US Masters), so that would be my favourite one. I just love playing that golf course.”