McIlroy had to settle for his ninth Tour second place after being out-muscled by Ryder Cup-winning colleague Peter Hanson yesterday.
The Swede went into the last day leading by one and while McIlroy handed Orlando-based Hanson a four-shot cushion by dropping shots at the fourth and fifth, McIlroy the world No 1 then began to throw everything at Hanson over the ensuing 13 holes.
Included in McIlroy’s display were five birdies and a 15th-hole eagle, where he sank a 25-foot putt. McIlroy went to the last tee still two behind but then seemed to have spoilt his chances when he found a fairway bunker. However, there was no doubting McIlroy’s resolve, despite standing at the bottom of the bunker and with no sight of the green, when he played a spectacular 171-yard 8-iron that found the back of the green.
In the end Hanson, despite finishing with a bogey, held on to win his second Tour event in three starts and move from seventh to second on the Race to Dubai list, behind McIlroy.
The Co. Down man gathered up his belongings and left Lake Malaren bound for Pudong Airport and a two-hour charter flight to Zhenghou where today he tackles Tiger Woods in the ‘Duel at Lake Jinsha’, an 18-hole medal match-play showdown. And while he’s sure to delight golf fans in that Chinese city of 10 million souls, it was letting slip a fifth Tour win this year that was playing on the 23-year-old’s mind as he departed the country’s financial capital.
“What I wanted to do this week was win,” he said bluntly. “When you get so close as I have been all week, it’s just about winning and, of course, I would have increased my lead in the Race to Dubai if I had of won.
“So it’s a tough pill to swallow when you do get so close, and I will rue those putts for the two bogeys I had on my front nine. I gave it a good run on the back nine but just left my run a bit too late.
“I’m proud of my efforts and I didn’t give up and fought right to the end, and if I had had a couple more holes I might have got him.”
Hanson has now moved to within €812,573 of the Holywood man in the Race to Dubai. While McIlroy will spend the last part of his week in Sofia supporting girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in her season-ending WTA event, Hanson can go past the absent Irishman with victory in the WGC–HSBC Champions at Mission Hills in Shenzhen.
Hanson will then meet with his management team at the world’s biggest golf complex to consider if he will add the following week’s Barclays Singapore Open to his schedule.
Shane Lowry added a last-round 68 to snare fifth place and is certain to move from 71st on the world rankings into the low 60s, his goal of ending the year inside the top 50 within reach.
Lowry has now banked €601,367 in a fortnight that began with his first pro career win in the Portugal Masters.
“My concentration levels are very good and I’m delighted with the great Race to Dubai and world ranking points, so it’s onwards and upwards,” he said.
The Ulster pair of Michael Hoey (70) and Graeme McDowell (69) shared 11th place on 13 under par, with Hoey moving up a dozen spots to 41st and well inside the Race to Dubai’s top 60.
Paul McGinley ended his 21st season on Tour in a distant share of 70th place in the 78-player field with a last-day 75 for a 10-over par tally.
The Dubliner, who will not play again until January’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, ends his year currently in 79th place on the money list.