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Rory McIlroy is setting his sights on an injury-free 2016

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy is relishing the prospect of an injury-free 2016 after a dramatic victory in the DP World Tour Championship ensured he ended the season as European No.1 for the third time in the last four years.

After starting the final round a shot behind Andy Sullivan, McIlroy carded eight birdies to surge into a two-shot lead with two holes to play, only to then dump his tee shot into the water on the par-three 17th.

However, the four-time Major winner holed from 30 feet to salvage what he called the best bogey of his career and take a one-shot lead up the 18th, which proved just enough to secure his fourth win of the year after Sullivan's birdie attempt narrowly missed.

"I guess if I had been tied playing the last I would have backed myself with my length, but giving myself that one-shot cushion made a huge difference and I was able to just hang on," the Ulsterman said after a closing 66 saw him finish 21 under par at Jumeirah Golf Estates, one shot ahead of Sullivan.

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"I've played really good golf this week, 13 under par at the weekend. I couldn't think of a better way to finish the season so I'm really happy going into the Christmas break and looking forward to what's in store for 2016. I'm looking forward to playing a full European Tour schedule next year with no hiccups."

McIlroy missed three tournaments this summer, including the defence of his Open title at St Andrews, due to an ankle injury suffered playing football with friends and needed a controversial exemption to compete in the European Tour's season finale after not playing enough events.

That exemption - which nearest Race to Dubai rival Danny Willett felt gave McIlroy an unfair advantage - proved to be worth a total of £2.1m thanks to the winner's cheque and the 26-year-old's share of the £4m bonus pool.

Willett had to settle for a six-way tie for fourth on 13 under which included Italy's Francesco Molinari, who recorded a hole-in-one on the sixth in a final round of 68.

Willett said: "I guess if someone had said you're going to finish fourth and see where that gets you, you might have taken it. Unfortunately we are going to come up shy by one in the Race to Dubai but hopefully next year we're in a similar position and can try and change the story."

Sullivan was ranked 150th in the world at the end of 2014 but won twice in South Africa and led from start to finish in the Portugal Masters last month to climb into the top 40. Staying inside the top 50 at the end of the year will secure a Masters debut next April.

The 29-year-old said: "It's going to be amazing. It will be a nice way to finish the season off to get an invite to the Masters."

Sullivan, who is also third in the Ryder Cup qualifying race now headed by McIlroy, added: "It was not even on my radar at the start of the year. I've got another year of points to win and hopefully it will sort itself out."

Belfast Telegraph


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