Onwards and upwards for Lowry
He didn't win but Shane Lowry still had the best season of his career in 2014. Picture: David Lloyd /  www.golffile.ie

He didn't win but Shane Lowry still had the best season of his career in 2014. Picture: David Lloyd / www.golffile.ie

Shane Lowry will finish his 2014 campaign closer to the Top 40 than the Top 50 in the world after a closing 71 gave him 11th place behind Danny Willett in the $6.5 million Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.

The recently engaged 27-year old will move up to around 43rd when the world rankings are updated on Monday and while he failed to win in 2014, he can reflect on the year with pride having finally broken into the game's elite and secured that first invitation to the Masters.

That four of his five Top-10 finishes came in some of the tour's biggest events — second at the BMW PGA, fourth in the Scottish Open, ninth at the Open and (crucially) fifth in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship — can only give the Clara man confidence heading into 2015.

He also goes into Christmas with a healthy bank balance having €1.92m having picked up $154,000 (€122,959) for his 11th place finish on two under at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City.

As far as the 2015 Race to Dubai goes, Lowry's prize money at the Nedbank Golf Challenge was capped €95,494, which means he is 10th in the money list.

Willett is top having produced a final round masterclass to land the biggest title of his career.

The 27-year old following up his 65 on Saturday with a 66 on Sunday to win by four shots from fellow Englishman Ross Fisher, leaving overnight leader Luke Donald, who signed for a 73, trailing in his wake.

Donald had to settle for third place, two shots behind Fisher, who closed with a 68, but showed signs he is rediscovering the sort of form that propelled him to World Number One in 2011.

Nobody could match Willett, though, who was hugely impressive from the tee and with the putter to notch six birdies and claim his second European Tour title, not to mention the US$1.25million first prize.

“My caddie John and I spoke at the start of the week and came up with a good game plan, to be aggressive off the tee on this golf course," Willett said.

"It's visually very intimidating, but I’ve been driving the ball really well and we wanted to give ourselves a lot more wedges and nine irons into holes, whereas some guys are just laying back.

"We put a new Callaway driver in the bag a few weeks ago and it’s been tremendous.

“It was just one of those weeks where the swing felt good and it came off. South Africa is a place that's suited me in the past and I’ve played well golf down here. I love the place, love the people - everything about it is great. It's been a truly fun test of golf.”

Donald said: “There are a lot of positives from the week. It's nice to put myself back in position. I could have played a bit better today, but I still would have had to shoot five under just to tie with Danny.

"He played really focused golf today and hats off, he's a deserved winner. If I have tournaments like this where I'm always having a chance to win, that's a good thing. 

"Danny’s putter was red‑hot – he didn't seem to miss and did everything really well.  He drove it amazingly well on this very tough, tight golf course.”

Nedbank Golf Challenge, Gary Player CC, Sun City (Par 72)

270 D Willett  (Eng) 71 68 65 66, 

274 R Fisher (Eng) 66 70 70 68, 

276 L Donald  (Eng) 71 63 69 73, 

279 M Siem  (Ger) 68 72 71 68, 

281 K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 72 73 68 68, 

282 M Jiménez (Esp) 70 74 69 69, 

285 J Blixt  (Swe) 71 73 70 71, T Clark (RSA) 70 71 72 72, L Oosthuizen  (RSA) 70 73 69 73, T Jaidee (Tha) 71 70 71 73, 

286 S Lowry  (Irl) 72 72 71 71, 

287 B Todd (USA) 73 68 75 71, S Gallacher (Sco) 70 73 72 72, 

289 C Schwartzel  (RSA) 70 71 75 73, T Fleetwood  (Eng) 74 67 74 74, 

290 P Larrazábal (Esp) 73 71 71 75, G Coetzee (RSA) 68 74 76 72, L Westwood (Eng) 72 70 78 70, 

291 B Koepka  (USA) 70 74 75 72, D Van Der Walt (RSA) 73 72 69 77, 

292 J Ahlers (RSA) 74 75 70 73, A Levy (Fra) 68 70 76 78, M Kaymer (Ger) 74 75 71 72, 

293 J Luiten (Ned) 72 74 73 74, T Bjørn (Den) 80 72 68 73, 

295 M Warren (Sco) 75 73 71 76, K Na (USA) 77 73 72 73, 

298 M Ilonen  (Fin) 76 78 72 72, 

301 D Van Tonder  (RSA) 77 78 76 70, 

WD J Donaldson (Wal) 74 WD