BELEK (AFP) – World number one Rory McIlroy on Sunday was assured of capturing the 2014 Race to Dubai crown, rewarding the top European PGA Tour golfer of the year.
The Northern Irishman was not playing this week in the season s penultimate tournament in Belek, Turkey, but made it past the post anyway when none of his nearest challengers were able to win.
That meant that no player could overhaul British Open and PGA Championship winner McIroy in next week s season-ending finale in Dubai.
It is the second time in three years that he has won the Race to Dubai title and at 25 he becomes the youngest player in history to win The European Tour s money list twice.
McIlroy first captured the Harry Vardon Trophy, awarded to the player who finishes the season as Europe s Number One, in 2012 after winning both the PGA Championship and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
After starting his inexorable march this year towards the summit of both The Race to Dubai and Official World Golf Rankings with victory in the BMW PGA Championship in May, McIlroy then hit a purple patch from mid-July.
In a stunning four-week spell, McIlroy increased his tally of major titles to four by first winning The British Open and then the US PGA Championship, with a maiden victory in a World Golf Championship event, at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, sandwiched in the middle for good measure.
In the process, the 25 year old became the third youngest player in history – after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods – to win three of golf s four major Championships.
A tied runner-up finish in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which took place a week after he played his part in Europe s victory over America in The Ryder Cup, means McIlroy has now finished in the top two in each of his last four appearances on The European Tour.
The Northern Irishman will now go in search of a second victory in next week s lucrative season finale in Dubai, having triumphed two years ago thanks to a stunning five-birdie finish.
“This has obviously been the best season of my career by a long way, and to win The Race to Dubai for the second time really is something truly special,” he said.
“That four-week spell over the summer, from The Open to the US PGA Championship, would have to be the best golf of my life, so I feel like I ve really earned The Race to Dubai.
“Winning it for the first time two years ago was a fantastic feeling, but I feel like I m now a more complete player and my all-round game has moved to another level.
“I ve put in a lot of hard work this season, with my game and my fitness, so it s nice to get the rewards at the end of it.
“In some ways the pressure is off next week, but I ll fight very hard to end the year on a high with another victory.
“I ve a great record in this tournament, and in Dubai generally, having secured my first European Tour win there in 2009.”