He hit every fairway and every green in the final round and lived up to Greg Norman's adage that happiness is a long walk with a putter.

Lee Westwood is European No 1 again and he did it by playing four rounds of almost faultless tournament golf to win the Dubai World Championship by the staggering margin of six shots from Ross McGowan and by eight from Rory McIlroy.

Two bogeys in 72 holes (McIlroy made 7), 25 birdies (McIlroy had "only" 20 and 1 eagle), just six greens missed all week (McIlroy missed 13) .... This was staggering stuff from the 36 year old Englishman.

McIlroy finished solo third on 15 under par after four rounds in the 60s. He would have requied a 59 to tie with Westwood but failed to get the red-hot start he needed to the final round and smashed a hole in an advertising hoarding at the seventh. Once the race was run, he relaxed and reeled off five birdies in six holes. He was forced to concede that he had been well and truly beaten by a man inspired. But he knows it could have been different.

Yes, he failed to become the youngest winner of the European money title since Seve 33 years ago but they say you learn more in defeat than in victory and this week will stand to the Holywood starlet.

Much will be made of Westwood's post tournament quotes on McIlroy handing him the psychological advantage after the first round by confessing that he was glad he wouldn't be playing with his stablemate in the second round.

"It was obviously a massive feather in my cap," Westwood said. "There’s nothing worse to say than that if you’re Rory – and he will learn from that – and there’s nothing better for me than a competitor to say they are glad they are not playing with me. I read it in the press. I wouldn’t have said it, but I’ve been on Tour 16 years and he’s been on Tour three. Sometimes what you say off the golf course and the mind games you play are as important as the pressure you can put on people on the course." 

McIlroy is wise enough to know that he boobed there and threw away shots at vital times when he had Westwood in his sights.

You only play as well as you are allowed and while Westwood claims that he never paid heed to what his young playing partner was up to and made sure he bossed the situation from day one (he used the word "bully"), there were moments when he wobbled almost imperceptibly and survived.

The youngster was joint leader of the tournament with 21 holes to play but then bogeyed three holes in a row at the end of his third round, finished the day five behind and that was that.

With the pressure eased and the door wide open, Westwood strode through with his most inspired all round performance for many years - possibly ever.

McIlroy needed a closing round for the ages but started with seven pars when he needed birdies and eagles. Westwood then holed a six footer for par at the first, birdied five of the next six holes and turned the race into a procession. Game Over.

McIlroy is still a raw rookie in golfing terms. He's played just 60 European Tour events as a professional compared to Westwood's 361.

That lack of experience showed in Dubai. In boxing they call it “ringcraft” and McIlroy will learn it in time.

Quite apart from €3.6m plus he has earned this year, the young Ulsterman got an unexpected consolation prize when he moved to 10th in the latest world rankings to achieve yet another of his goals this season.

Sergio Garcia made it to No 10 at the age of 20 years and 7 days in January 2000 but remained there for just one week and he did not return to the top 10 until May 2001, when he was 21 years and four months.

McIlroy doesn't turn 21 until next May so let's see how he fares in the US between now and then.

With Westwood winning and his stablemate Ross McGowan coming in second, there was an ISM feel on the final green and McIlroy will take the ribbing on the chin over the next few months having decided to put aside the advice of his manager, Westwood and Darren Clarke to take out his PGA Tour card.

This was Westwood declaring that the old guys aren't quite ready to step aside and let the young prince take over the show just yet. 

Perhaps he was riled by McIlroy eve of tournament assertion that Clarke and Westwood were against the PGA Tour move because they had not succeeded there. 

"I get the feeling that they would rather stay in Europe," McIlroy had said, in all innocence.

Having blown the Open title at Turnberry this year, Westwood needed this boost to his confidence and McIlroy is wise enough to take his lumps and move on.

He will mark this down as another rite of passage on the road to golfing adulthood and another toughening up experience for the dog-eat-dog treatment that lies in store on the PGA Tour.

It was his third such lesson this year.

Geoff Ogilvy showed him in the Accenture Match Play quarterfinals that a razor-sharp short game is a match for a bazooka-like driver.

Just two weeks ago, McIlroy played two rounds with Phil Mickelson and discovered that you can have a bazooka-like driver AND a short game to die for.

As for Tiger Woods, he's already confessed that he's in no hurry to see McIlroy fulfill his potential just yet. “At least, not while I’m around,” he said in March.

"I am definitely a better player now than I was at the start of the year, and I hope I’m a better player this time next year than I am now," McIlroy said. 

Roll on 2010.