DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Another year without a major was no less special for Rory McIlroy, who finished Sunday as the best golfer in Europe for the fourth time and became only the second player to win titles out of season on the PGA Tour and the European Tour. .
Jon Rahm felt the same way.
Rahm started with three straight birdies en route to a 5-under 67 to win the DP World Championship for the third time, two strokes ahead of England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Sweden’s Alex Noren.
“I hope people can stop telling me it’s been a bad year,” Rahm said. “Three victories in the world, three victories on three different continents. Yes, it was not a major championship, but it is still a very, very good season.
Rahm also won the Mexican Open on the PGA Tour and the Spanish Open to go along with the European Tour’s season finale which came with a $3 million prize.
He finished 20-under 268 at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
McIlroy has now gone eight years since his last major – he finished in the top 8 of four majors this year – but has won the FedEx Cup and its $18million bonus, as well as the Canadian Open and CJ Cup in Caroline from the south.
Along the way, he once again became world number one.
“I think my goal has been to become a more complete golfer and I feel like I’m on the right path to achieving that,” McIlroy said. “I’m as complete a golfer as I think I’ve ever been, and I hope I can continue on that path.”
McIlroy’s main challenge in the DP World rankings came from Matt Fitzpatrick, whose bid for the Harry Vardon Trophy exploded around the corner.
The US Open champion had to win and McIlroy not finish second, or finish second and the Northern Irishman be outside the top seven. Neither of those scenarios happened as Fitzpatrick, three off the lead , took a double bogey on the No. 8, then dropped another shot in the 10th to end his chances.
McIlroy didn’t need any of the fireworks the day before, when he powered into contention with a 65. He could have leveled Rahm with an eagle in the par-5 18th but had to settle for a par and a 68.
“It means a lot. It’s been seven years since I did one. I’ve won three FedEx Cups since my last victory,” McIlroy, who won the FedEx Cup in August, told Sky Sports television.
“It would have been nice to get a win there at the end of the year, but Jon played an amazing tournament and fully deserved it.”
Henrik Stenson in 2013 is the only other player to win the FedEx Cup and the European points list in the same year.
Rahm, who became the first player to win the tournament three times, started the final day with a one-shot lead and quickly doubled his advantage.
Fitzpatrick’s 28-foot birdie on third took him to 15 under and less than two, but things started to go downhill with a bogey on short sixth and although he immediately recovered that drop shot, the calamitous eighth finally made up for his hopes.
His drive landed in a deep rut in a waste area, his next shot failed to get over the rough and after flying over the green he dufted his chip and two putts from the fringe for a 6. This put him five behind and after missing the fairway on the 10th that led to the bogey, his challenge was over.
The only problem McIlroy, who had three birdies and a bogey in his first four holes, had on the eighth came with the flag impeding his 56-foot birdie effort. He put three putts on the ninth green but was not the only one as Hatton did the same for his only bogey in the 66th round.
Noren finished with a 67 and his tie for second place should move him just outside the top 40, likely to secure a top 50 spot by the end of the year for a Masters invite.