Late moment of misfortune derails Rory McIlroy's bid for third DP World Tour Championship

Two-time winner, who held lead for much of Sunday, cards a 74 to finish in tie for sixth

Rory McIlroy’s short wedge to 15 caromed off the pin and careered back into the bunker that guards the green.

Looking forlornly at caddie Harry Diamond, the two-time winner’s heavy sigh said it all. McIlroy’s tournament had turned on a moment of misfortune.

Perhaps still flustered, his recovery nestled on the fringe and the resultant par putt did not find the cup. Suddenly, the DP World Tour Championship’s overnight leader had relinquished his spot at the summit.

On the very next hole, McIlroy three-putted from distance and his hopes of an unprecedented third triumph around the Earth Course disappeared into the desert evening.

Up ahead, Collin Morikawa had birdied 17, moving three ahead of the pack and practically sealing the tournament title to go along with his soon-to-be-rubber-stamped Race to Dubai crown.

McIlroy’s last throw of the dice – a chipped attempt at birdie on the penultimate hole of the European Tour’s season finale – came up agonisingly short. Just like his tournament on the whole.

The four-time major champion, bidding to win for a second successive competitive outing, would drop another shot on 18, when his drive found the wood-chipping well right of the fairway and his second, hooked around the trees that enveloped him, plonking in the creek just short of the green.

By then, in the grand scheme of things, the closing bogey did not really matter. In the end, McIlroy signed for a two-over-par 74 and fell into a tie for sixth.

And so the late-season resurgence was checked somewhat. The former world No 1, DP World Tour Championship winner in 2012 and 2015, came into the week at Jumeirah Golf Estates on the back of victory at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas last month. Through the first three days’ play in Dubai, for the most part his form suggested his game was very much back, those recent Ryder Cup woes well and truly left behind.

But McIlroy never capitalised on his one-shot advantage going into Sunday. To be fair, he did birdie the second, but gave back the shot on the par-3 4th. A birdie on 10 lifted him clear once more of a surging Matt Fitzpatrick, the defending champion who had temporarily pulled level at the top. Then, with six holes of the European Tour’s 2021 campaign to play, McIlroy held a two-shot lead.

Not long after, Morikawa birdied 15 – his third birdie in four holes – and McIlroy had company. Soon, he tackled the same hole, but his approach struck the flagstick and McIlroy came unstuck.

Updated: November 21st 2021, 1:53 PM