‘Best bogey of my career’ helps Rory McIlroy seal DP World Tour and Race to Dubai double

Rory McIlroy won Dubai’s DP World Tour Championship on Sunday, overhauling overnight leader Andy Sullivan with four birdies on the back nine to also be crowned Europe’s top money earner for a third year in four.

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DUBAI // Rory McIlroy said he had the “best bogey of my career” to thank for winning the DP World Tour Championship after a thrilling run-in against Andy Sullivan.

The Northern Irishman’s class eventually told in a duel in the desert between a former world No 1 and a former supermarket shelf-stacker.

The victory was not without its fraught moments, though. Having gradually reeled in his English counterpart and built a two-shot cushion, McIlroy inexplicable fired his tee-shot into the water at the island hole, the par-3 17th.

Hitting from the drop zone after seeing his playing partner safely find the putting area from the tee, he left himself 40 foot for bogey, to cling on to a one-stroke lead.

Showman that he is, he duly drained the putt. Both players then played the 18th in par, meaning McIlroy was able to celebrate the Dubai double of this championship and the Race to Dubai title, his third Order of Merit crown in four seasons.

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“It’s definitely the longest putt I’ve ever made for a bogey,” McIlroy said of his adventures at his 71st hole.

“I don’t think there’s been one that’s ever come at a better time, so it is definitely the best bogey of my career.”

McIlroy termed his effort from the tee at 17 “just a horrendous golf shot,” and suggested it had been 40 yards off target. He said he was indebted to the calming words of JP Fitzgerald, his caddie, for salvaging something from the hole.

“JP said, ‘Look, you’re all-square, you get up and down for bogey,’ and that was really how I thought of it,” said McIlroy, who also won this title in 2012.

“Those little words he said to me walking up to the drop zone really helped, because I was still, in my mind, all-square when I hit my approach shot on the green.”

Sullivan might have missed out on a fourth title of a breakthrough season, but he continued to win the hearts of supporters. Despite the high stakes, he retained his trademark chipper demeanour all through a spellbinding final round.

Even before the start of play, it was the Sullivan show. The first tee-box was swamped for their noon tee-time with the sort of crowd never before seen at this tournament.

Spectators massed to witness the arrival of McIlroy, as well as Ivor Robson call his last match after 41 years as the official European Tour starter.

Yet the rowdy ovation which ushered in the start of proceedings was reserved for Sullivan, as he passed through his “Team Sulli” fan club en route through the championship village in a golf kart.

After fighting the good fight and posting a final round of 68, Sullivan said he had given it everything, and was just beaten by a world-class player.

“I’ve learnt a hell of a lot about myself and the qualities I possess,” said Sullivan, who had a job filling shelves in his local supermarket before he made it as a golf professional.

“Even more so going up against somebody of Rory’s quality and standing toe-to-toe with him.

“For me it is about doing it on a more consistent basis and getting up there and trying to get in the last group with Rory more often.”

McIlroy, who played the opening round of the year in Dubai, at February’s Desert Classic, in the same group as Sullivan, said he is a “great player”.

“He’s got all the shots, he obviously putts very well and any time I’ve played with Andy, I have been very impressed,” the champion said.

pradley@thenational.ae

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