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19th Nov 2023

Rory McIlroy takes home biggest cheque as Ryder Cup rookie blows everyone away


Rory McIlroy

“It’s the worst part of winning!”

Rory McIlroy had such a successful 2023, albeit without that elusive fifth major, that he won the ‘Race to Dubai’ even before the DP World Tour Championship concluded, in Dubai, this weekend.

This was not so much a Race to Dubai as a stroll, for McIlroy at least. The Northern Irishman racked up enough big wins and prizes over the past 11 months that he was able to finish tied 22nd and still bask in the end-of-season glory.

McIlroy has now won five championships on the DP World Tour [the old ‘European Tour’] and is now three behind Scottish and Ryder Cup legend Colin Montgomerie. Following his latest championship-clinching season, McIlroy told reporters:

“Over the last 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 Harry [Diamond, my caddy] 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.”

McIlroy was happy to share the spotlight with Ryder Cup teammate Nicolai Hojgaard after the Dane won the final big Rolex Series event of the season. While Hojgaard also picked up a winners’ cheque of €2.75 million, McIlroy – as Race to Dubai winner – got himself another big trophy and a cheque for €5.5m. As he posed for photo after photo with Hojgaard, he joked, “It’s the worst part of winning!”

To catch you up on all the DP World Tour Championship and Race to Dubai goings on, golf writer Paddy Morgan has all the big talking points and shots from the season-closer.

Nicolai Hojgaard birdie blitz clinches win

Matt Wallace took a one-shot lead into the final round after a third round of 60. The chasing pack included 2023 FedEx Cup champion Viktor Hovland, 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood and Denmark’s young rising star Nicolai Hojgaard.

Another day of blue skies and warm weather for the final round at the Earth Course. Players were allowed to place the ball on the fairways for the final round.

Fleetwood hit an excellent second shot from 113 yards and started with an opening birdie. The Englishman played the second hole perfectly with a great tee shot, an excellent 5 wood to find the green in two and holed the putt for eagle. The fourth hole at the Earth Course is a 228 yard par three. Fleetwood found the bunker with his tee shot and was unsuccessful in achieving a par.

The last good chance for a birdie on the front nine is the par five seventh but Fleetwood missed the fairway with his tee shot. He played a good third shot from 131 yards but missed the putt for birdie.

Fleetwood made two good par saves at the eight and ninth to shoot a front nine of 34. He started his back nine tied for the lead on -17 with Hovland, and had 72 yards for his second shot at the 10th hole. He did indeed hit it close and would tap in for birdie.

Fleetwood went two shots clear on -19 after a birdie at the par four 11th. Hovland’s first mistake of the final round was at the third hole as he missed the fairway and failed to get up and down for par. The Norwegian achieved a great par at the fourth hole to keep the momentum in his favour.

Hovland reached -18 after two consecutive birdies, at the seventh and eight hole. Hovland had 189 yards for his second shot at the ninth but drew a terrible lie in the rough which he couldn’t advance to the green. World number four played a good chip shot but finished the front nine with a bogey.

Leader Wallace started with five straight pars before achieving a birdie at the par three sixth. He then hooked his tee shot at the par five seventh which ended up against a wall and had to take a penalty. Wallace did well to only drop one shot at the par five. The Englishman holed two great putts for par to shoot a level par front nine.

Hojgaard made short work of the first hole with a 345-yard drive and 112-yard second shot to set up an opening birdie. The Danish star made his third birdie at the par three sixth but had a disappointing three putt at the par five seventh. Hojgaard bounced back immediately and birdied the par four eight hole.

Hojgaard would shoot a front nine of three under to start the back nine one behind the lead. The Dane hit a big drive at the par four 10th and converted a short range putt for birdie.

The Ryder Cup rookie missed the fairway at the 12th hole and missed a four footer for par. Wallace had opportunities for birdie at the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th but missed all attempts. Hovland hit two good iron shots at the 11th and 13th but didn’t take advantage with missing both putts.

Hojgaard holed a putt for birdie at the 13th before hitting the 14th in two with a iron to make it two birdies in a row. Hojgaard made it three birdies in a row after an up and down from short range at the par four 15th to reach -19.

Hovland drew a good lie in the rough and was able to reach the 14th green in two as he made his first birdie on the back nine. Fleetwood found the fairway at the 14th and had 253 yards for his second shot but hooked it left.

Fleetwood played a good chip shot but the birdie putt failed to drop. Wallace had to lay up after finding the bunker and finally made his first birdie since the sixth to advance to -17. He then hit an extraordinary second shot at the 15th with an eight iron from 161 yards, which resulted in a birdie. Hovland was unsuccessful with a birdie at the par four 15th .

Wallace reached -18 after a great chip shot on the 15th hole. With three holes to go Fleetwood was leading on -20, Hojgaard on -19 and both Wallace and Hovland on -18.

Hojgaard hit another big drive and a class second shot at the 16th to tie the lead on 20 under. Hovland kept himself in with a chance as he also birdied the 16th.

Hojgaard finishes in style

Both Wallace and Fleetwood could only manage a par at the 16th . The 17th is a par three over water playing 175 yards Nicolai Hojgaard hit another incredible iron shot and rolled in the birdie putt to reach -21. Hojgaard was unsuccessful in finishing with six birdies in a row and had to settle for a round of 64.

Hovland put his second shot into the water at the 18th. Fleetwood disappointedly three putted for bogey at the 17th .

Hojgaard was crowned DP World Tour Championship winner after Fleetwood failed to put his third shot into the hole at the 18th. The Dane was outstanding in the final round as he hit 11 fairways, 17 greens, 29 putts and five birdies in a row. Fleetwood didn’t do anything wrong he was just outclassed by Hojgaard.

Fleetwood, Wallace and Hovland all finished in a tie for second on -19. Jon Rahm made three birdies in a row and made a great run through the field to finish in a tie for fifth on -17. Matthieu Pavon birdied the last four holes to also finish in a tie for fifth.

Victor Perez shot a back nine of 31 to finish eight. Jeff Winther and Ewen Ferguson make up the top 10 in a tie for ninth on 15 under. Tyrrell Hatton had the best back nine on day four with 29. Robert MacIntyre was the king of the par threes as he made nine twos. Shane Lowry shot a good final round of four under to finish inside the top 20.

Rory McIlroy won his fifth Race to Dubai title and is only three behind Colin Montgomerie. McIlroy has a great record in the DP World Tour Championship but this year was the first time in 13 editions that he finished outside the top 20.

Plenty of low scores this year due to the soft conditions and it was great to watch players been aggressive in making eagles & birdies. The 18th at the Earth Course is a fantastic finishing hole as you could either make an eagle or a double bogey.

A fantastic season and a great finish with the tournament going down to the wire.


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