[PHOTO: Andrew Redington]
Right from the start, it was always going to be an odd week for Rory McIlroy. Even before the first shot had been hit at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, the Northern Irishman had been confirmed as the winner of the Race to Dubai for the fifth time in his career. Deprived of that motivation, it was perhaps no surprise, in what was his first competitive appearance since the Ryder Cup six weeks earlier, that McIlroy’s performance in the $US10.5 million event turned out to be so-so at best.
No matter, the big picture is what the history books will recall most vividly. Only Seve Ballesteros with six and Colin Montgomerie with eight have more victories in what used to be called the Order of Merit.
“It’s great,” was McIlroy’s initial reaction at the conclusion of a closing-round 71 that left him 10-under par for the week and in desultory tie for 22nd place in the 50-man field. “I think it shows my consistency year-to-year. I think over the past 10 years, I think I’ve won eight season-long titles between America and between here, so it just shows my level of consistency. I said to [caddie] Harry [Diamond] on the last green, there’s a few guys that are able to beat me sort of one week or the next week, but I don’t think there’s a lot of people that can beat me throughout the entire season.”
There was room for hint at some regret over a 2023 in which he failed to add to his total of four major championship victories.
“It’s just about trying to be a little more clinical when I get to those weeks where I have chances to win,” McIlroy said. “Overall, it’s been another really solid year. My stroke average has been great, and I’ve played really good golf, really consistent. Hopefully there will be more of the same going into next year and beyond. I’ve still got a little bit left in the tank and still got a good eight to 10 years left in me where I can play at the top, top level. I’d like to think that I’m going to at least try to get past Seve, then get past Monty as well. It’s certainly a goal of mine for the rest of my career to do something like that. It would mean a lot to me.”
As for highlights this year, McIlroy’s mind inevitably switched to the shot he hit to the 72nd green at the Renaissance Club in Scotland back in July.
Ridiculous approach on 18 from @McIlroyRory 👀
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 16, 2023
“I’ve probably hit shots that have been more consequential in bigger events, but in terms of just the pure quality of the shot I’m not sure if I’ve ever hit one as good as that,” he said. “It was a perfect 3-iron, but I didn’t have a 3-iron in the bag. So it was case of either turning a 4-iron into a 3-iron, or a 2-iron into a 3-iron. I was over a 4-iron first, but couldn’t see how it was going to get over the false front of the green. So I went from hitting a big draw with the 4-iron to hitting a little cut with the 2-iron. It came out perfect. Just as I had pictured it in my mind.”
A big-time shot from a big-time player in yet another big year, you might say.