Thursday 29 September 2016

Comment: Thrilling fairytale finish just reward for Tour's top dog Rory McIlroy

Published 23/11/2015 | 02:30

Rory McIlroy celebrates with his girlfriend Erica Stoll and trophies after winning The Race to Dubai and DP World Tour Championship
Rory McIlroy celebrates with his girlfriend Erica Stoll and trophies after winning The Race to Dubai and DP World Tour Championship
Rory McIlroy: 'I wanted to come here to win the Race to Dubai title and try and win this tournament again. So whether that's off-putting to some people, the money doesn't motivate me the way trophies do'

Rory McIlroy hails from Holywood, County Down but his story of 2015 would do justice to a Hollywood film script.

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The hero strides proud and strong across the landscape in the early part of the campaign, then is wounded and falls into near-despair, only to rise again.

In the final dramatic scenes, he beats off the antagonists who have come to dethrone him.

The big prize is all but won, then is almost snatched from his grasp, and finally claimed amid late drama.

Rory McIlroy celebrates with his girlfriend Erica Stoll and trophies after winning The Race to Dubai and DP World Tour Championship
Rory McIlroy celebrates with his girlfriend Erica Stoll and trophies after winning The Race to Dubai and DP World Tour Championship

At the end of the saga, he is restored to his rightful place as THE man among men.

This has been heroic stuff in Dubai from McIlroy.

Humble and magnanimous in victory, he has been gracious and honest in defeat when it has been his fate, especially when the ankle injury he suffered in July hindered his performance levels over the last five months.

Around him, the European Tour's new chief executive, Keith Pelley, can rally sponsors, television moguls, golf fans and media to extend the influence and strength in depth of the Tour.

Rory McIlroy poses with the Race to Dubai trophy after he won the final round of the DP World Tour Championship golf tournament
Rory McIlroy poses with the Race to Dubai trophy after he won the final round of the DP World Tour Championship golf tournament

The result in Dubai justified Pelley's decision to allow the European number one golfer an exemption from the mandatory 13 tournaments to 12, ensuring McIlroy could try to retain his Race To Dubai title.

Great story, great excitement as the hero stumbled, almost catastrophically, on the par-3 17th but recovered his poise to see off Andy Sullivan's gritty challenge for the tournament title.

Danny Willett, honest enough to air his feelings recently that allowing McIlroy that exemption was a tad unfair on the others who had played more tournaments on the European circuit, fell away and could not improve on his second place in the R2D rankings.

So, there stood McIlroy in the desert sunshine, accepting the trophies, awards, and praise.

Class, talent and work ethic had won out, but McIlroy was not oblivious to the shadow side of world affairs.

He made a special mention of Paris, and of the victims of the terrorist attacks of last week at the prize-giving ceremony.

One wonders how that went down in certain quarters in the Middle East.

It was, however, a sign of a man who looks beyond the confines - and they can be very narrow - of golf, an activity which, as he says on his Twitter account, consists of him making his living by hitting "a little white ball around a field sometimes".

The money he earned yesterday by his victory in the DP World Tour Championship event and from the bonus pool was in excess of €3.1 million.

His European Tour official earnings have reached €27m.

After that, for off-course earnings, including his multi-million Nike contract and PGA Tour money and appearance fees....pick a number, a very large number.

The Sunday Times Rich List for 2015 put him down for €48m. It's unlikely to be less than that and probably considerably more at this stage, but McIlroy is able to put the question of money in context. Remember, the cheques with large numbers of zeros are written because of market forces over which he has no control.

He is box-office in a sport which showers massive rewards on the best of the best.

A question in relation to the money issue was asked at his post-tournament press conference and McIlroy replied: "It's not what motivates me.

"I wanted to come here to win the Race to Dubai title and try and win this tournament again.

"So whether that's off-putting to some people, the money doesn't motivate me the way trophies do. And I'm not saying that money's not important. It obviously is.

"But there are more things important to me, and that's collecting trophies and putting tournaments on my resumé, and I was able to do that this week," he said.

Next on the agenda is a long Christmas break followed by a return in January.

"I might hit a few shots between now and the New Year, but I won't get serious until after the New Year," said McIlroy.

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