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Rory McIlroy ends year as European No. 1 despite Jon Rahm’s Dubai win | Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy ended the year as European No. 1 for the fourth time in his career – and the first since 2015 – despite Jon Rahm’s victory at the DP World Tour championship in Dubai.

The Spanish golfer’s two-stroke win over England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Sweden’s Alex Norén was his third in six years at Jumeirah Golf Estates and was worth $3m (£2.5m).

But McIlroy ended the season at the top of the DP World rankings after Matt Fitzpatrick, his only rival for the Harry Vardon Trophy, exploded at the turn. The June US Open champion was expected to win and McIlroy was not expected to finish second; or to finish second and the Northern Irishman to be outside the top seven.

But none of those scenarios happened as Fitzpatrick, three up playing in the eighth, double-bogey then dropped another shot in the 10th to end his chances.

McIlroy didn’t need any of the fireworks the night before, when he powered into contention with a 65. While he could have leveled Rahm on 20 under had he had the last eagle, McIlroy could only manage par for a 68, which included six birdies and four bogeys, to finish fourth.

“It means a lot,” McIlroy told Sky Sports. “I haven’t done this for seven years. I have won three FedEx Cups since my last victory.

“I’ve been a model of consistency throughout the year and I think my worst result in European Tour events was 12th at the start of the year in Abu Dhabi. It would have been nice to get a victory there at the end of the year, but Jon played an incredible tournament and fully deserved it.

Jon Rahm lifts the trophy after winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai
Jon Rahm after winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Photograph: Martin Dokoupil/AP

Having achieved such consistency, McIlroy will once again turn his attention to the end of an eight-year major drought. “I’m really proud of my year and looking forward to 2023,” he said.

“I just think when you get to that level that’s how you can make those incremental improvements to get better and my goal has been to become a more complete golfer.

“It took me seven years to get my hands on this trophy; it’s been eight years since I won a major. If I can keep playing the way I play and keep those levels consistent, I will.

Rahm, who became the first player to win the tournament three times, started the final day with a one-shot lead and opened with two successive birdies to extend his advantage.

Fitzpatrick’s 28-foot birdie on third took him to 15 under and within two, but things started to unravel with a bogey on short sixth. Even though he immediately recovered that drop shot, the calamitous eighth finally made up for his hopes. His drive landed in a deep rut in a waste area, his outburst failed to clear the rough and, after hovering over the green and tossing his chip, he launched two shots from the fringe for a six.

It put him five behind and after missing the fairway on the 10th, Fitzpatrick dropped another shot and his challenge was over as he finished 13 under, seven adrift. The only problem McIlroy, who had three birdies and a bogey in his first four holes, had on the eighth came with the flag impeding his 56-foot birdie effort.

He putted three on the ninth but wasn’t the only one as Hatton did the same for his only bogey in a round of 66, while the England golfer couldn’t believe he missed an eagle putt from 11 feet to equalize the lead at 14th.


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