Rory McIlroy takes Hong Kong title to keep alive race to Dubai
Rory McIlroy kept alive his hopes of winning the Race to Dubai as he sealed a two-shot victory at the Hong Kong Open
World No2 Rory McIlroy holed his bunker shot for birdie at the 18th hole to win the UBS Hong Kong Open by two shots.
On a day in which the lead was exchanged multiple times, McIlroy’s five under par 65 was enough to secure a two-shot victory over France’s Gregory Havret, who recorded the same score.
More significantly, however, the Race to Dubai remains very much alive. If McIlroy wins next week, Luke Donald will have to finish in the top nine to make history and become the first ever player to win both the PGA and European Tour money lists in the same season.
In truth, there can be very few avid golf fans that want Donald to be overhauled, but that is a sentiment that will not register in McIlroy’s consciousness as the pair battle it out to be crowned the best player in Europe.
Overnight leader Alvaro Quiros had a day to forget. His drive on the first hole ended up behind a tree, and things didn’t improve from then onwards as he stumbled to a three over par 73 to finish the tournament in a disappointing tie for seventh.
Swede Peter Hanson, who was one behind going into the fourth and final round, birdied the third hole to take the lead on 10 under par, but gave a shot back at the very next hole. He would go on to finish where he started the day at nine under par, good enough for solo third.
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay finished a shot further back in a tie for fourth with Ian Poulter and Thailand’s Pariya Junhasavasdikul. Ramsay played well enough tee-to-green to win, but had some issues with the flat-stick, while Poulter confessed dissatisfaction with his result: “I came to defend and I’ve come up shy.” Fans of the Englishman will be content, however, and will hope that this result will translate into a successful 2012 after he lost his PGA Tour card this season.
It was a pleasing day for McIlroy, who has been desperate to win this tournament since losing a play-off in 2008. “I’ve had to wait a couple of years to get there, but to get this trophy in my hands is very special.
“It meant a lot knowing that I had to go out there and play well to keep myself alive in the Race to Dubai, probably to keep second place in the World Rankings. To produce the sort of golf I did today was very pleasing.”
At the other end of the spectrum, places 61 to 118 in the Race to Dubai standings have now been finalised. There was no change in the top 60, with Christian Nilsson clinging on to the chance to play for a share of $7.5m (£4.8m) next week at the Dubai World Championship.
Northern Irishman Gareth Maybin finished in a tie for 39th, and South Africa’s Keith Horne finished in a tie for 42nd, and both have retained full playing privileges for next season.
Their success has displaced Simon Khan and Marco Tullo from the all-important top 118. Tullo now faces a trip to European Tour Q-School, but Khan is exempt for 2012 after his victory at the 2010 BMW PGA Championship.
McIlroy admitted that seeing friend Lee Westwood shoot 62 at the Nedbank Golf Challenge spurred him on today. The Englishman followed up “the best round I’ve ever played” with a one over par 73 to win by two shots from Robert Karlsson. “I love playing this golf course”, he said, before describing his title defence as “very special”.
Graeme McDowell made a quick start with birdies at one and two but, in truth, Westwood was never troubled. Karlsson’s best of day four under par 68 was only enough to restrict his victory margin to two shots.
There was some good playing from Jason Dufner and Korea’s Kim Tae-Kim, who looks a real prospect for the future, as they recorded 69 and 70, but the day belonged to the man from Worksop, who could barely believe his luck and mask his obvious joy when he was presented with a cheque for $1.25m (£800,000).
On a special Sunday of golf, both the world No2 and the world No3 were victorious, and next week will be competing for glory at the Dubai World Championship with the Race to Dubai still very much alive.