It is one thing winning on The European Tour International Schedule, it is quite another thing winning when you have to, which is why Rory McIlroy’s stunning victory in the UBS Hong Kong Open was all the more impressive.
Knowing he had to succeed to keep alive his hopes of pipping Luke Donald to The Race to Dubai title, at five shots adrift midway through a misfiring third round, it looked like matters were going awry but McIlroy gritted his teeth and two late birdies brought him back in touch.
As leader Alvaro Quiros faltered in the final round, McIlroy saw his chance and powered forward, his main challengers into the home straight being playing partner Grégory Havret and Peter Hanson, two matches behind.
While Havret was steady, he could not get close enough, while Hanson’s first bogey of the week on the back nine at the 14th stalled his progress, leaving the Northern Irishman one clear coming down the last.
McIlroy is already heralded as the most exciting talent the game has known in years and showed precisely why, holing from the bunker in front of the 18th green for a truly audacious birdie three. Now all eyes turn to Dubai and what will be a thrilling tussle down to the wire with Donald.Further down the Hong Kong field, there was joy for another Ulsterman, Gareth Maybin, whose share of 39th place helped him move from 120th in The Race to Dubai to 117, thus keeping his playing privileges for next year – the unfortunate man to miss out and face a return to the Qualifying School being Chile’s Mark Tullo, who dropped to 119th.