The world No 1 can no longer be caught in the Race to Dubai by Sergio Garcia, Jamie Donaldson or Marcel Siem.
One of them needed to win both the Turkish Airlines Open and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai this week and, even then, McIlroy had to finish outside the top 17 in the latter event.
Siem gave it the best shot of the trio as he finished eighth in Belek – a splendid effort given that the German “dislocated a rib” during a gym session before the final round.
In climbing to third on the back of his closing 64 – the joint best of the day along with defending champion Victor Dubuisson – 2013 Race to Dubai winner Henrik Stenson is now McIlroy’s closest challenger in the rankings.
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But, with the Northern Irishman holding an advantage of more than 2.7 million points and only 1.6 million going to the winner in the UAE this Sunday, the race is over before the final event for the first time since Ernie Els claimed the crown with plenty to spare in 2004.
Having won two majors – The Open and US PGA – as well as a WGC and the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth – it’s only right, too, that the Harry Vardon Trophy is back in McIlroy’s hands for the second time in three years.
“This has obviously been the best season of my career by a long way, and to win the Race to Dubai for the second time is something truly special,” he admitted. “That four-week spell from The Open to the US PGA Championship would have to be the best golf of my life, so I feel like I’ve earned this.”
McIlroy missed the opening three Final Series events to allow himself to prepare for an impending court appearance in the dispute with his former management company. He has been practising in Dubai, though, ahead of his return in this week’s event and tweeted a photograph over the weekend of his blistered hands.
“In some ways the pressure is off but I’ll fight very hard to end the year on a high with another victory,” he added. “I’m looking forward to getting out on the golf course and feeling that competitive edge again.”
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