Rory McIlroy summed up his day and his year in one word in Dubai last night – “unbelievable”.
Golf’s 23-year-old world No 1 finished his 2012 with five brilliant birdies to add the DP World Tour Championship to everything else he has achieved.
McIlroy needed something special after Justin Rose had produced something extraordinary – a 10-under-par 62 that was not only a course record by two, but also the lowest round of his 14-year European Tour career by two.
At one point Rose had gone from six behind to two in front, but McIlroy did not just get the better of his head-to-head with world No 2 Luke Donald, he got the better of Rose also.
When a 12-foot putt went in on the final green for his fifth successive birdie he had shot a third 66 of the week and on 23 under par had won by two for a double worth more than £1.4m.
The tournament victory – his fifth of the year – earned him almost £840,000 and for topping the European Tour money list, just as he did in America, he collected nearly £630,000.
Not that such figures blow his mind any more. The US PGA champion was playing with Titleist clubs for the last time before switching in a deal with Nike worth a reported £156m over the next 10 years.
He said: “I saw Justin make a charge – I heard the cheers – but to finish like that was great.
“I could not have wished for any better. To back up 2011 with another major (like the first, by a runaway eight-shot margin) and to be part of an unbelievable story at the Ryder Cup has made it an incredible year.
“But hopefully I can emulate it or do even better next year.”
He started his burst to the line by chipping to three feet on the long 14th, pitched just as close at the next, then made a 20-foot effort on the following green.
That made him and Rose level and, with the par five 18th, McIlroy was favourite.
But he did not wait until then to go back in front, a five-iron to the difficult 17th – over 200 yards into the wind over water – pulling up only six feet from the flag.
It gave him the comfort of being able to lay up on the last and to get down in a pitch-and-putt was only right and proper.
Rose’s compensation for second place in both the event and the money list race was not only the £968,000 it brought him. He is now up to a career-high fourth in the world, knocking Lee Westwood out of the top four for the first time in three years.
Donald finished joint third with South African Charl Schwartzel five strokes behind McIlroy, his 71 including bogeys at the third and 12th after he had gone a remarkable 102 holes on the course without dropping a shot.
The day also contained holes-in-one from Stephen Gallacher at the fourth and Joost Luiten at the sixth and when Sergio Garcia eagled the last for the second time in three days it gave him what was, at that point, a course record-equalling 64.
Sheffield’s Danny Willett and malton’s Simon Dyson both closed with level-par 72. Willett (71 65 70 72) finished tied for 26th on 10-under-par 278 with Dyson (69 69 73 72) five shots further back.
Propping up the field was Hull’s Richard Finch (76 74 74 71) despite his best round of the tournament, a one-under-par 71.