It’s little wonder the European Tour is looking to revamp its end of season schedule with a play-off series after Rory McIlroy became the youngest European No 1 for 31 years and Ireland’s first since Padraig Harrington in 2006.
Having already won his second Major Championship, ascended to the summit of the Official World Golf Ranking and played his part in Europe’s stunning Ryder Cup comeback, the 23-year old set the seal on the most glittering season of his career by winning The Race to Dubai for the first time.
After collecting €289,296 for finishing in third place at the Barclays Singapore Open, won by Italian Matteo Manassero, McIlroy took his season’s earnings to €3,696,597 and, with his closest rival Peter Hanson not playing again until the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, the Northern Irishman has now established an unassailable lead at the top of The Race to Dubai Rankings.
In so doing, McIlroy – who will defend his UBS Hong Kong Open title next week before moving onto Dubai the week after – has emulated the feats of his Ryder Cup team-mate Luke Donald, who won the Money Lists on both sides of the Atlantic last season.
Aged 23 years and 191 days, McIlroy becomes the youngest player to be crowned European Number One since Scotland’s Sandy Lyle, who was 21 when he won the Harry Vardon Trophy in 1979 and 22 when he repeated the feat the following year. He also becomes only the second player from Northern Irishman to top the Money List, following Ronan Rafferty in 1989.
“It really is hugely satisfying to finally become the European Number One, especially after finishing second in two of the last three years,” said McIlroy, who picked up four birdies in his final round before closing with an eagle three for a 65.
“It has been one of my main goals to become Number One in Europe ever since securing my card five years ago, so to end the year as the Number One on both The European and US PGA Tours is absolutely amazing.
“Winning a second Major Championship already made it a fabulous season, but then to follow Luke [Donald] in becoming Number One in both Europe and the States is the icing on the cake after a fabulous season.
“I feel so proud and humbled to have joined so many fabulous names in Europe who have won the Order of Merit. And to be able to accomplish this goal with two events still remaining in The Race to Dubai means that I can defend my UBS Hong Kong Open title and play in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai without that added pressure, and just really enjoy my golf.
“I set myself a number of ambitious goals at the start of the year, and to have ticked so many of the boxes feels great. A lot of hard work went into this, and I am really proud of what I’ve achieved in 2012.I would like to give special thanks to the team around me for all the support they have given me throughout the year.
“I’ve still got two events remaining this year, and the goal is still to try and win at least once more before the end of the season. Beyond that, I’m looking forward to a good break over the winter! I’ve got a healthy lead in the World Rankings, but with so many very good players on both sides of the Atlantic there’s no time to be resting on my laurels, so my goal is to push on in the New Year.
“Monty [Colin Montgomerie] won eight Orders of Merit in his prime, and I have only won one so far, so there is plenty of ground to make up. But to be able to go into 2013 as the Number One on both The European Tour and the US PGA Tour is hugely satisfying.”