Top man McIlroy has 11.3m reasons to smile
SINGAPORE was the setting for another Holywood epic as Rory McIlroy wrapped up the 2012 Race to Dubai title with a fabulous final-round 65.
World No 1 McIlroy maintained a proud penchant for the spectacular by sinking a monster 30-foot putt for eagle on the final green to copperfasten third place in the Singapore Open.
A €289,286 cheque propelled McIlroy beyond the reach of his rivals for the Harry Vardon Trophy and into the history books alongside Luke Donald as the only men to top the official European and US money lists in the same year.
Still, McIlroy relied yesterday on Europe's other young Tiger, Matteo Manassero, to ease him across the line with two events remaining in the Race to Dubai, this week's defence of his Hong Kong Open title and next week's $8m DP World Championship.
Manassero once again showed his astonishing maturity by beating Louis Oosthuizen with an eagle three of his own on the third tie hole, thereby denying South Africa's 2010 British Open champ the victory he needed to sustain hopes of catching McIlroy in the title race.
Already famous for winning twice on tour at the age of 17, Manassero's now the first player to pick up three European victories in his teens. Yet McIlroy, at age 23, has replaced Tiger as 'The Man' in world golf, his record-shattering victory at the US PGA Championship standing out among four tournament wins which underpinned his runaway lead in the world rankings.
The official €3,696,596 McIlroy has accumulated (so far) on the European Tour in 2012 is boosted to €4,483,446 by the US$1m bonus (€786,850) he receives for winning the Race to Dubai.
Added to the US$8,759,100 (including a US$3m windfall for finishing second to Brandt Snedeker in the FedEx Cup) McIlroy won in America this year, his worldwide earnings on the golf course in 2012 come to a whopping €11.3m.
Incredibly, since turning professional just over 61 months ago in October 2007, the youngster has now accumulated €25.236m in prizemoney.
This figure does not include income from sponsorship, endorsements and appearance fees, while McIlroy's wealth will soon be boosted even further by a contract with Nike which could yield up to US$250m over the next 10 years.
It's reached the point where making history, not money, drives McIlroy.
He's the fourth Irishman to lift the Harry Vardon Trophy as leading official money-winner in Europe. The others were Christy O'Connor Snr (1961 and '62), Ronan Rafferty (1989) and Padraig Harrington (2006).
Despite his relatively tender years, McIlroy's only the fifth youngest to land this prestigious award. Seve took the Vardon at age 19 in 1976; Sandy Lyle was 21 when he prevailed in 1979 and 22 the following season and 1975 winner Dale Hayes was 23.
"It is hugely satisfying to finally become European No 1, especially after finishing second in two of the last three years," said McIlroy. "Winning a second Major championship already made it a fabulous year but this really is the icing on the cake."
As ever, McIlroy was unflinchingly honest as he added: "The money list has been cheapened by not having all the leading players at events towards the end of the year but it's still an award for consistency."
His nearest rivals, Peter Hanson, Justin Rose and last week's HSBC-winner Ian Poulter, forfeited any chance they had of winning the Race to Dubai by returning to their families in Florida after Mission Hills with no intention of engaging in further European Tour action until next week's finale in Dubai.
Critics were quick to point the finger at McIlroy and Woods for not staying on in China after their Lake Jinsha exhibition to play in the HSBC but Hanson, Rose and Poulter have been given a comparatively easy ride.
At least there was validity in McIlroy's explanation that a week's break in a string of tournaments allowed him gather himself for a big push in the final three events of the season. Revealingly, as a series of tropical thunderstorms made a case for revolving doors on the locker room at Sentosa, McIlroy complained of feeling a little under the weather.
Yet he certainly was up for yesterday afternoon's challenge. After completing the final nine holes of his third-round 69 in the morning, McIlroy shook off any lethargy and emerged from a three-day putting malaise to post that faultless 65.
Manassero's 36-hole effort yesterday was even more heroic. First he had to complete 15 holes of the stunning third-round 64 which propelled him into contention. Ten hours later, Manassero still was going strong, delivering the birdie four he needed at the 72nd to clinch his place in a play-off for the first time.
Oosthuizen missed a four-foot putt for birdie and victory on the second tie hole, Manassero applied the coup de grace by holing a 12-footer for eagle.
He did McIlroy a favour yesterday but this stealthy teenage assassin could well become the Ulsterman's greatest rival over the next decade.
CHARLIE BELJAN, 28, had to spend a night in hospital on the way to his first PGA Tour victory at the Childrens Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Walt Disney World in Orlando, the final event of the US season after a final round 69 saw him home safely on 16-under.
Tour rookie Beljan felt under so much pressure to save his card as he lay in 139th place on the Money List, he suffered a debilitating anxiety attack as he shot a superlative second round 64 last Friday.