Rory McIlroy declared he is not about to rest of his laurels after becoming the youngest player in 36 years to become European No 1.
McIlroy holed a spectacular 30-foot putt for eagle to secure third place at the Barclays Singapore Open yesterday — enough to add the European Race to Dubai title to his PGA Tour money list crown.
Italy’s 19-year old Matteo Manassero, with Belfast’s Dave McNeilly on the bag, created his own history in becoming the first teenager in the 40-year history of the Tour to capture three events in defeating South African Louis Oosthuizen for the Singapore title. Manassero won with an eagle putt at the third extra hole to ensure McIlroy could not be beaten at the head of European affairs.
Had Oosthuizen won it would have seen the Race to Dubai showdown moving north for this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open and with McIlroy needing to finish first or second in the defence of his title to ensure top spot.
And while Manassero was thrilled to also become the youngest winner of the Barclays Singapore Open, he was as delighted to play a part in McIlroy’s triumph.
“The way Rory has played this year he certainly deserves to win the Race to Dubai and I’m glad I could help achieve his goal,” said Manassero.
“Rory plays a game now that not many of us can match and he’s an inspiration for all of us to look up to. So it will be great to catch up with him in Hong Kong and maybe he owes me a drink.
As Manassero was being handed the gleaming trophy, McIlroy was making his way to nearby Changi Airport for a flight to Hong Kong. He becomes the second straight European, after Luke Donald, to top the money list on both sides of the Atlantic, while he becomes the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros in 1976 to become European No 1.
McIlroy said: “It is hugely satisfying to finally become the European No 1, especially after finishing second two of the last three years.
“It has always been one of my goals to become No 1 in Europe since securing my Tour card five years ago, but then to also end the year as both European and PGA Tour No 1 is just amazing. I feel so proud and humbled to join so many fabulous names in Europe who have won the order of merit.
“Winning a second Major already made it a fabulous season, but then to follow Luke Donald in becoming No 1 in both Europe and the States is the icing on the cake after a fabulous year.”
McIlroy ended his rain-delayed third round yesterday morning with a 69 to move into a share of 13th at four under par and seven shots behind Manassero. After a short break he then muscled his way up the board to a share of fifth with four birdies in 15 holes before hitting a 248-yard 5-wood to 30 feet at the last, and then bringing spectators to their feet in holing the eagle putt.
Manassero missed an eagle putt in regulation while Oosthuizen missed a short birdie putt at the second extra hole for victory that would have ensured McIlroy’s Race to Dubai title chase continued for another week.
McIlroy still has a goal of winning before the year is out but having now wrapped up both money list titles he is already looking ahead to 2013.
He said: “I’ve got a healthy lead in the world rankings, but with so many very good players on both sides of the Atlantic it will not be a time to be resting on my laurels.
“My goal is to push on in the new year”.
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