Unlucky Ian Poulter discovered in Dubai that the only place a professional golfer is likely to find sympathy is in the dictionary.
The climax of the “most successful season in European Tour history” was plunged into farce on the second hole of sudden death at The Dubai World Championship as Poulter fell foul of one of those bizarre rules which make non-golfers snort with derision.
Towering Swede Robert Karlsson (41) was a worthy winner of his 11th European Tour title... yet any chance Poulter had of forcing the playoff to a third hole expired when he was given a one-stroke penalty for accidentally dropping his ball onto his marker.
The Englishman's 'lucky' marker, a special platinum disc inscribed with the names of his children, turned over just once and that flip of a coin 'cost' Poulter the trophy, a whopping 303,452 euros in prize money, plus 113,000 euros of Race to Dubai bonus cash and 23 world ranking points.
Significantly, it also drew an unmerciful ribbing from his colleagues on Twitter.
The most amusing barb came from Rory McIlroy, who fired off this stinger to world No 1 Lee Westwood: “Poults may not have won the Dubai World Championship ... but he could be in with a shout for the tiddlywinks world title.”
McIlroy was just as eloquent with his clubs on 18 yesterday, hitting a mid-iron to three feet for a spectacular eagle and a closing 67. This stirring effort lifted him into fifth place (worth 218,423 euros) in the tournament, McIlroy's 11th top-10 finish of a year which yielded his first victory in the US but left the player himself unimpressed.
“Looking back on the year, I'll probably be a little disappointed, but that's natural and that's golf,” he said with a shrug. “Though I definitely think I'm on the right track. Hopefully 2011 will be better,” he went on.
“Parts of this year were very good but the consistency wasn't there. I'd give it about a six out of 10, though I've learned a lot about myself, my game, where I want to play, where I want to be and what's important to me.”
As Ireland's top-finisher, McIlroy remains the world No 10.
Though Graeme McDowell drops to 11, there's little doubt who was most contented of the two as they boarded a plane for Los Angeles and this week's Chevron World Challenge, Tiger's lucrative pre-Christmas bunfight at Thousand Oaks.
McDowell's prospects of overtaking Martin Kaymer in the Race to Dubai expired over the opening 36-holes here but he brought his best-ever season to an immensely satisfying conclusion with rounds of 67 and 68 at the weekend. The US Open champ struck the ball beautifully as he forced his way into a tie for 13th on six-under with Kaymer and six others, including Dubliner Peter Lawrie.
So Kaymer (25) is the youngest winner of the European Order of Merit since Ronan Rafferty in 1989 but there was ample consolation for McDowell as he took second place in Race to Dubai with European earnings of 3,896,995 euros (including bonus).
“Last Friday was disappointing for me because I lost my head, got impatient and got frustrated with myself,” said McDowell.
“I really wanted to play the last 36 holes as positively as I could, so to shoot seven-under and play as well as I have this weekend makes me very proud of what I've achieved this season.”
A year of rare achievement, in which McDowell also won the Welsh Open and Andalucia Masters, has convinced the 31-year-old that he's capable one day of making it to the top of the world.
“When one of my good friends and colleagues, Lee Westwood, gets to No 1, of course I believe I can do it as well,” he said.
“Yet I also know there's room for a lot of improvement in my game — that I can continue to get better and better and put all the great experiences I've had to good use in the next five to 10 years.”
Darren Clarke picked up a 49,431 euros in 28th on two-under after his closing 71, good enough for 30th place in the Race to Dubai (892,388 euros), clinching his ticket to next summer's British Open at Sandford.