Rory McIlroy has not only regained the Race to Dubai lead but he also seized a huge psychological advantage over main rival Lee Westwood.
Despite the disappointment of finishing runner-up for a second year running in the UBS Hong Kong Open yesterday, McIlroy moved 128,174euros ahead of Westwood by carding a final-round 64 for a 17-under tally that left him two strokes behind Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, who carded a 67 for a 19-under-par winning total.
The Bordeaux-born Bourdy was showered in champagne after capturing his third Tour victory, and also becoming the first French champion in Hong Kong. The win earned the 27-year-old a 280,000euros first-prize cheque and a place in this week's Dubai World Championship, with Bourdy moving from 86th and into the top-60, in 47th place.
However, his win has denied Darren Clarke a place in the event. Clarke ended his season in 61st place on the money list and one tantalising place outside the top-60 that will now move on to Dubai.
McIlroy, though, has no such worries. He went to the front in the Race to Dubai after finishing fourth in last month's Dunhill Links Championship.
However, the 20-year-old only held that position for three weeks when Westwood went ahead by winning the Portugal Masters. But after collecting a 186,000euros prize purse, McIlroy is now odds-on favourite with bookmakers to capture the European No 1 title.
His last round included a 14th-hole eagle along with five birdies but also a bogey on the 17th, where the young Holywood man untypically showed his frustration by banging his club into the turf after a poor shot.
“It's where I wanted to be at the start of the week, and I knew if I put in a strong performance here there would be a good chance go ahead of Lee,” said McIlroy.
“I was some €50,000 behind Lee and now I am No 1 heading to Dubai, and in pole position.
“It's a big plus for me as I am going there with the lead and they have to chase me. I can play my own golf, and while I will be looking at what other people are doing, at the end of the day there is only a handful of guys in with a chance to win it.
“Another plus is that I won in Dubai at the start of the year and it would be great now to end the season winning the Dubai double this year.”
Westwood could manage just two birdies over the weekend, one on each day, in rounds of 69 and a 74 that was his poorest score in 37 rounds this season. The English ace, on a first visit to Hong Kong, was left completely baffled by the greens and had an average of 32 putts over the four days to finish in a distant 54th spot on one-under par.
“This week was just bit of an off week, as nothing went right for me on the greens, and I just couldn't get anything going,” said Westwood.
“But Dubai is in my hands regardless. The difference between first and second in Dubai is more than the difference in Hong Kong so if I win in Dubai, I win the No 1 title.”
In contrast to Westwood's woes, Peter Lawrie one-putted the final nine greens in a round of 67 to grab seventh place on 13-under par.
Clarke had a birdie putt on the final green that could have sealed a Dubai tee-time but his long-range attempt pulled up some four feet short in his third straight 67 for a 10-under-par total.
“I've tried my heart out all week and while I had a lot of chances coming in, and I burnt the edges so many times but just couldn't quite get another one to drop,” he said.
Graeme McDowell is heading to Dubai in a good frame of mind after a final round of 70 gave him a nine-under-par total that moved him up one spot to 32nd on the money list.