Rory McIlroy’s classy victory in the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club saw him take control of The Race to Dubai in assured fashion.
The 2012 Race to Dubai and DP World Tour Championship, Dubai winner was already guaranteed a spot in this year’s season-ending grand finale taking place at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai from Thursday November 20 to Sunday November 23, following his BMW PGA Championship victory in May. But he put himself in with a great chance of becoming the first repeat Race to Dubai champion, since the new format began in 2009, with his two-stroke triumph over Sergio Garcia and Ricky Fowler at Hoylake which takes his prize money total for the year to €2,634,933 with Thomas Bjorn in second place with €1,621,367.
"It feels incredible," said McIlroy. "It wasn't easy - there were a few guys making runs at me and I just needed to stay focused. To win three legs of the Grand Slam at 25 is a pretty big achievement."
The Northern Irishman took a six-stroke lead into the final round after shooting the lights out over the first two days with back-to-back rounds of six-under par 66 followed by a third-round 68 which was finished off in style by eagles on the 16th and 18th holes. But on a day when his rivals pushed him all the way with some bold displays, McIlroy ground out a mature victory with a steady closing 71 to reach 17-under-par 271 for his third Major championship, adding to the US Open he claimed in 2011 and the US PGA Championship he won in 2012.
“I've really found my passion again for golf,” said McIlroy who infamously blew a four-stroke lead on the final day of the 2011 Masters Tournament but this time around showed he could absorb the pressure, despite seeing his lead cut to two, and now joins Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only three players in the modern era to have won three Majors before turning 26. “Not that it ever dwindled, but it's what I think about when I get up in the morning. It's what I think about when I go to bed. I just want to be the best golfer that I can be. And I know if I can do that, then trophies like this are within my capability.”
Sergio Garcia, having to settle for the bridesmaid position in a Major for the fourth time in his career, nevertheless booked his DP World Tour Championship spot with a hugely impressive performance capped by a final-round six-under-par 66 which sees him surge up The Race to Dubai into third place with €1,571,776 in prize money.
“It's difficult when you're in a situation where you know you can't make a mistake,” said the Spaniard, who shot rounds of 68,70,69 and 66 for a 15-under-par total of 273. “It just puts that little bit of extra pressure on. So many good things happened throughout this week. Even today I got a couple of really good breaks. It was close. I'm proud of the way I played. I wanted to at least make him (McIlroy) feel a little bit (of pressure) and see how he would respond. And he obviously responded well.”
South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel solidified his DP World Tour Championship place with a fast finishing five-under-par 67, coming home in a blemish-free 33 blows to secure a share of seventh place on 11-under-par while Italy’s Edoardo Molinari booked his spot at Jumeirah Golf Estates with a wonderfully consistent display that saw him shoot 68,73,68,68 to join Schwartzel at 11-under-par.
Sweden’s Robert Karlsson ensured that the DP World Tour Championship will welcome back another former winner when the 2010 champion closed with a three-under-par 69 to reach nine-under-par for a share of 12th place.
The field for the European Tour’s season-ending showcase in Dubai is shaping up to be a mouth-watering prospect with the likes of McIlroy, Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, defending champion Henrik Stenson, 2009 champion Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els already qualified.
“It’s fantastic that the 2014 DP World Tour Championship will feature The Open Champion and the US Open Champion (Martin Kaymer) along with European Tour players of the calibre of Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson,” said Nick Tarratt, Director of The European Tour International Dubai Office.