MAJESTIC Rory McIlroy led a world-class field a merry dance at Crooked Stick yesterday as he swept to within touching distance of the $10m FedEx Cup jackpot with his second US Tour victory in seven days.
McIlroy showed his class last month with the record-breaking second Major victory at the US PGA that propelled him back to the top of the world rankings.
Yet the Holywood star firmly established himself as golf's new Tiger by sealing sensational back-to-back wins at the Deutsche Bank last Monday and the BMW Championship yesterday.
McIlroy was almost unworldly yesterday as he overhauled joint overnight leaders Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh and then romped clear of playing companion Lee Westwood to his third win in four tournaments.
He's now won four times in the US in 2012, boosting his earnings in America so far this season to $7.8m.
A final-round 67 propelled McIlroy to 20-under-par, two clear of Westwood (69) and Phil Mickelson and three better than Tiger Woods (68).
Delighted to win back-to-back at two of the most prestigious tournaments in world golf, McIlroy said: "These play-offs are big. You've got the best players in the world out here every week and it's great to be able to come out on top."
"Rory's putting on a great show out there but we still have one tournament," said Woods, No 2 to McIlroy in the FedEx table and looking forward to renewing his head-to-head rivalry with the youngster in the first round of the Tour Championship at East Lake, Atlanta, next Thursday week.
A couple of years back, McIlroy's two wins would have been enough to clinch the FedEx Cup, but the points system has been redrawn to give everyone in the 30-man field at the season finale a chance to win the overall prize.
Yet as No 1, McIlroy will be very much in the driving seat at East Lake.
McIlroy and Westwood regally entertained the good people of Indianapolis with the intensity of their cut-and-thrust battle for the first 13 holes, before Westwood simply melted away with a bogey on 14.
McIlroy had headed straight for the practice tee after his third-round 69, admitting he "hit the ball awfully from tee to green" in the third round and his Saturday evening was not wasted.
"I did some great work on the range last night and drove the ball well today to put myself in a great positions," said McIlroy.
Sadly, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell fell out of FedEx Cup contention. Both needed top-five finishes at the BMW to make the 30-man field at next week's Tour Championship in Atlanta. Yet Harrington tied 16th on 10-under after a closing 73, while McDowell's campaign fizzled out with a six-over-par 78.
However, Europe is being carried into the Ryder Cup on a tidal wave of Tour wins, McIlroy's victory at the US PGA sparking a remarkable run of six wins by members of Jose Maria Olazabal's team in the past four weeks.
Peter Hanson followed McIlroy (three), Paul Lawrie, Sergio Garcia into the winner's circle at Hilvershum yesterday, sinking a 30-foot putt for eagle on the final hole to beat Spain's Pablo Larrazabal and Scot Richie Ramsay by two.
Once again, it was a timely tournament success for the Swede, who clinched a place at his first Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in 2010 by winning the Czech Open at the eleventh hour.
Hanson (34) showed remarkable strength of character by posting back-to-back rounds of 67 on a weekend that began in sheer panic as he received news late on Friday that his infant son, Tim, had been rushed from the family's Florida home to intensive care with a respiratory virus.
Thankfully, the boy made a complete recovery and Hanson's delight was compounded by his fifth European Tour win. "It's hard trying to get ready for a Ryder Cup," he explained. "It's nice when you can pull stuff together and bring out what you need when you need it."
Damien McGrane was Ireland's best in Holland, €16,830 in 26th on four-under after landing three birdies in a five-hole purple patch midway through the back nine of his final-round 69.
Peter Lawrie applied a birdie-birdie finish to the two-under 68 which tied him 32nd (€13,968) with Darren Clarke, the Ulsterman taking 34 putts in his closing 70.
Simon Thornton dropped five shots on the final four holes of yesterday's 75 for a share of 37th on two-under (€11,880).