Rory McIlroy hailed the best bogey of his career after surviving a dramatic lapse in concentration to win the DP World Tour Championship and claim a third Race to Dubai title in the last four years.
After starting the final round a shot behind Andy Sullivan, McIlroy carded eight birdies in the first 15 holes to surge into a two-shot lead with two holes to play, only to then find the water with an “horrendous” tee shot on the par-three 17th.
However, the four-time major winner holed from 30 feet to salvage a bogey and take a one-shot lead up the 18th, which proved just enough to secure his fourth win of an injury-hit year after Sullivan’s birdie attempt narrowly missed.
“It’s definitely the longest putt I’ve ever made for a bogey,” McIlroy said after a closing 66 saw him finish 21 under par at Jumeirah Golf Estates, one shot ahead of Sullivan with South African Branden Grace a distant third on 15 under.
“I don’t think there’s been one that’s ever come at a better time, so definitely the best bogey of my career.
“On Thursday it was a similar yardage and I was in between a five and a six iron. I tried to hit a six iron off the back foot and left it out to the right.
“I tried to do the exact same thing today, hit the exact same shot. It was 40 yards off line. It was just a horrendous golf shot.
“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 and I was able to just hang on.
“I’ve played really good golf this week, 13 under par at the weekend. I couldn’t think of a better way to finish the season so I’m really happy going into the Christmas break and looking forward to what’s in store for 2016.”
Rory came into the event with a 1,614-point lead over Danny 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.
Willett had to settle for a six-way tie for fourth on 13 under which included Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who recorded a hole-in-one on the sixth in a final round of 68.
“I guess if someone had said you’re going to finish fourth and see where that gets you, you might have taken it,” Willett said.
“Unfortunately we are going to come up shy by one on the Race to Dubai but hopefully next year we’re in a similar position and can try and change the story.”
Sullivan held a one-shot lead overnight and extended it to three with birdies on the first and second, but looked to have finally run out of steam on the back nine until McIlroy surprisingly threw the £5.2million event wide open once more on the 17th.
“I thought, ‘I’m back in it’,” said Sullivan.
“But I gave him a great read on my (birdie) putt. I turned to my caddie and said, ‘I expect him to hole this’. That’s just the world-class performer he is.
“It was an awesome day. Just to come up head-to-head with someone of Rory’s quality, it was absolutely awesome and something that will stick with me for a long time going forward.”
Rory will take an extended break now before competing again at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January and intends to focus on improving his health and fitness
“I want to try and get healthy and get stronger again, get my body back, because I haven’t been able to do as much in the gym as I would have liked over the past few months,” said Rory.
“I’ve got an eight-week period where I don’t have to play golf. I don’t have to worry about being sore.”
going and playing a round of golf.