- DP World Tour Championship, Round Four
Metronomic McIlroy denies resurgent Rose
On a day that was billed as a shootout between the world's top two players, it was instead Justin Rose who provided the greatest challenge to Rory McIlroy at the DP World Tour Championship, but even his heart-stopping putt at the 18th could not stop the world No. 1.
McIlroy and Luke Donald, the world's leading duo, started Sunday's final round with a share of the lead. It seemed the ideal climax to the season as the 2012 PGA and European Tour Money List winner took on his 2011 equivalent, but the real battle became McIlroy v Rose as the former eventually won by two strokes.
It was a quite miraculous rise from Rose, who threatened to match the largest comeback of the year - set by Ernie Els at The Open - having started the day six shots off the pace. A course-record ten-under round of 62 had him on course for victory when he entered the clubhouse, but McIlroy still had three holes to play.
The signs of drama were there from the opening hole as Rose made birdie at one and two, reaching the turn at four-under for the day. A further birdie followed at ten before two more sandwiched an eagle at the 14th.
However, Rose's best was still to come. Facing a monster putt for eagle at the 18th - with a birdie by no means a certainty, the Brit set his ball off slowly, giving it just enough to climb over the ridge on the green. Almost stopping, Rose's ball strained to gather pace, eventually stopping an inch from the hole. It was sheer brilliance from the 32-year-old, who completed on 21-under.
At that stage McIlroy had just drained the 15th to move to 20-under, and a third consecutive birdie at the next took him level with Rose at the top of the leaderboard. A clinical sense of calm and drive was etched into his face, and his swing was proving a thing of beauty.
A wonderful iron shot at 17 set up McIlroy's chance for a fourth straight birdie, this one to take the lead, and the pump of the fist told the story as the ball dropped. Having bogeyed two of the front nine, McIlroy was now steamrolling over the back end of the course, and he simply stood with arms aloft as a fifth consecutive birdie sealed his victory on 23-under.
"It's unbelievable. I said at the start of the week I wanted to come here and hold two trophies on the 18th green, and that's what I've managed to do," McIlroy told Sky Sports.
"I didn't get off to the best of starts, like the first three days, and I saw Justin making a charge - I heard the cheers at the last and presumed he got to 21-under. So I knew I had to do something special. I couldn't have wished for the season to end any better."
McIlroy had been feeling unwell for most of the week, but said his condition improved ahead of the final round. "I felt OK today, I didn't feel good last night, but I just had to summon all my energy for these 18 holes," he said. "I just needed to hole a few more putts.
"The tee shot on 17 was very important. It's not a hole that you look at as a birdie chance. It was a tough pin today, over 200 yards into the wind and I hit a great five-iron to give myself a cushion going into the last."
Donald never got involved in the final fight as he struggled to match playing partner McIlroy, reaching the 16th at level-par for the day. He picked up a shot at the 486-yard par-four to move level with Charl Schwartzel on 18-under in third place, but Donald will have had greater expectations.
Elsewhere in the field, if one man threatened to match Rose's effort it was Sergio Garcia, who signed for an eight-under 64 to finish level with Padraig Harrington on 14-under. Garcia eagled the 18th for the second time in a week to complete a positive end to his season.
Robert Rock was back on 11-under, one ahead of Chris Wood and Ian Poulter, while Lee Westwood's disappointing week saw him finish on four-under.