A 30-FOOT eagle putt on the final green at the Barclays Singapore Open yesterday made Rory McIlroy the European Tour’s youngest money list winner since Sandy Lyle in 1980.
But it was only when 19-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero also eagled the same hole more than two hours later that McIlroy could crack open the champagne again.
Already with the PGA Tour title in the bag, the 23-year-old world No 1 emulated the double achieved by Luke Donald last season when Manassero beat South African Louis Oosthuizen with a 12-foot putt at the third play-off hole.
If Oosthuizen had won he could still have caught McIlroy, but instead Manassero became the first player to win three times on the circuit before the age of 20.
McIlroy, watched during the week by girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, stormed through to third place with a closing six-under-par 65.
“I left myself a little bit too much to do to win, but it was a great way to finish off the round and the tournament,” said the Northern Irish star, who still has his defence of the Hong Kong Open and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to come this next fortnight.
On clinching the money list double McIlroy said: “It really is hugely satisfying to become the European number one, especially after finishing second two of the last three years.
“It has always been one of my goals ever since securing my Tour card five years ago, but then to also end the year as both European and PGA Tour number one is just amazing.
“To be able to accomplish this goal with still two events remaining means that I can head to my UBS Hong Kong Open defence and the DP World Championship Dubai without that added pressure and just really enjoy my golf.
“Winning a second major championship (the USPGA in August by eight shots just like his US Open triumph last season) already made it a fabulous season, but then to follow Luke Donald in becoming number one in both Europe and the States is the icing on the cake after a fabulous season.
“I’ve still got two events remaining this year and the goal is still to try and win at least once more before the end of the year. Beyond that I’m looking forward to a good break over the winter!”
Manassero, just 17 when he became the Tour’s youngest-ever winner in Spain two years ago, had slipped from 29th in the world to 85th and said: “This year has been a little tough for me and I’m glad this came. I’m going through a few swing changes and have picked up length. The driver is the most important thing - I changed it and it gave me a few extra yards.
The Verona youngster made four in a row from the third hole in a third round that resumed at 7.30am and after posting a 64 for a two-stroke lead he grabbed two more birdies early in the final round.
They dried up after that, however, and Oosthuizen caught him with three in a row around the turn, only to bogey the 12th and 13th. A chip-in for a two on the 201-yard next increased the pressure again, however, and Manassero bogeyed the 15th after driving into rough.
When Oosthuizen pitched to a foot on the last for a 67 he went ahead again, but Manassero’s two-putt birdie gave him a 69 and forced sudden death on 13 under par. Both birdied the 18th again, then parred it with Oosthuizen lipping out from under five feet and after returning to the tee again, it was Manassero who came up with the decisive stroke to claim the first prize of over £618,000.