Rory McIlroy ended a rollercoaster season on a high note when he spectacularly eagled the last to claim fifth place in the Dubai World Championship.
The 21-year old closed with a five under par 67 to finish just two strokes outside the play-off on 12 under par. And while he gave his year just “six or seven” out of ten - despite winning on the PGA Tour and recording a pair of top-3 finishes in majors - the Holywood star hopes to become an even stronger player next term.
Believing he is now good enough to strucure his season around the majors having opted to resign his membership of the PGA Tour, he reckons 2010 will go down as a watershed year.
“Looking back on the year, I’ll probably be a little disappointed, but that’s natural,” said McIlroy, who won the the PGA Tour at Quail Hollow and finished third in both The Open and the US PGA. “That’s golf. You’ve got to try and keep improving and getting better and I think I’m definitely on the right track.
“I have learned a lot about myself and about my game this year. Where you want to play, where you want to be, what’s important to you and that’s been a very big positive this year.”
Singling out the Ryder Cup as the highlight of his season, he added: “Consistency is probably something I could work on, but I feel my short game has improved so much this year because it has had to because I haven’t hit it as well this year as I did last year.
“Just out of necessity my short game has improved and I have got a lot more variety which I am very happy with. And if I can get the ball striking back up where it was this time last year I will be very happy.”
Peter Lawrie three-putted the 18th for a par five and a 71 to finish tied for 13th with Graeme McDowell on six under par. He earned €84,662 for his trouble to end the season a career-best 36th in the money list.
But he believes he could have done a lot better had he holed his “fair share” on the greens over the course of a season that brought eight, top-10 finishes.
“That summed up the year,” Lawrie said of his three-putt finish. “Had I won this season, it would probably have been the best season of my career. But I have been very consistent and striking wise it’s been superb. I’d give myself an A for striking and a B all round.”
Darren Clarke (71) tied for 28th to finished 30th in the final Race to Dubai standings, earning an exemption in next year’s Open Championship at Royal St Georges for the top-30.
But Padraig Harrington is glad he has next week’s Nedbank Challenge in Sun City to look forward to after a closing 76 alongside Sergio Garcia (70) left him tied 39th on one-over and 20th on the money list - his worst season in Europe since he finished 32nd in the Order of Merit in 2005.
“A lot of times I was inside the top-10 and a good score would have given me a chance to contend and I ended-up shooting an average of 73 or 74 and finishing 20th,” Harrington said of his year. “It’s been one of those years and definitely flattered to deceive for me.
“There’s a lot of good signs and hopefully it goes down as just one of those years. I look forward to getting out next year and getting a fresh start.”
Race to Dubai final
1, Martin Kaymer €4,461,010;
2, Graeme McDowell €3,896,995;
13, Rory McIlroy €1,821,050;
20, Padraig Harrington €1,145,016;
30, Darren Clarke €892,388;
36, Peter Lawrie €845,717;
40, Gareth Maybin €784,076;
41, Damien McGrane €782,719;
62, Shane Lowry €501,727;
90, Michael Hoey €322,120;
124, Paul McGinley €159,769;
142, Simon Thornton €116,954
201, Colm Moriarty €43,769;
240, Gary Murphy €19,152