Rory McIlroy admits defeat in bid to derail Luke Donald

RORY McIlroy yesterday conceded defeat in his bid to deny Luke Donald arguably the greatest feat in golf this year.

There is still a round to go in the Dubai World Championship, the final event of the European Tour season. But McIlroy does not believe it is possible for him to come from eighth place to grab the win he needs – and for Donald to drop from fourth to outside the top nine.

“It’s over, definitely,” said the Northern Irishman, not wanting to blame his possible Dengue fever for the front-nine collapse that effectively invited Donald to put the champagne on ice.

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If the Englishman, top of the world rankings since May, goes on to clinch the Tour No.1 spot, he will become the first player ever to win the money list titles on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season.

It is a season when he will have won around £8 million just for what he has done on the course. Goodness knows what fortunes he has also earned off it in sponsorship deals.

The 34-year-old described his bogey-free 66 as “the perfect round for me. Exactly what I wanted.”

While he moved up from joint 12th place at halfway, McIlroy dropped five spots from his overnight third with a 71 consisting of a nightmare 39 on the front nine and then a 32 on the back nine once his tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki arrived to watch.

That recovery, whatever the US Open champion says, means it is not quite all done and dusted yet.

McIlroy is six adrift of leader Alvaro Quiros, the Spaniard’s closing bogey leaving him only two in front of Scot Paul Lawrie, and he should remember what happened only last week.

Quiros led the Hong Kong Open with a round to play and shot 73, while McIlroy fired a 65 to win. Even if that happens, though, the US Open champion does not anticipate Donald opening the door for him.

“I expect to see Luke play another solid round and he fully deserves it,” said McIlroy, who had to take a penalty drop from a bush on the seventh, left a chip short of the green and ran up a double-bogey seven.

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“I don’t think he has been given enough credit for the golf he’s played. People outside just look at wins and think that’s the be-all and end-all.

“But to have the amount of top fives and top tens he has you need to be incredibly consistent. From within the golfing family he will receive a lot of plaudits.”

There is still a chance today could be worth £1.74m to Donald – £793,298 for winning the tournament and a £951,957 bonus for topping the money list. And this only 11 weeks after he earned more than £1.53m for finishing third at the Tour Championship in Atlanta and third the same day in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup.

“If it all works out tomorrow night will be fun, but I’m not taking anything for granted yet, you can’t in this game,” Donald said.

“I would be foolish to think it’s all over. Tomorrow it will be just like any other day in terms of my focus.

“That will be on trying to catch whoever is the leader and trying to win the tournament.”

He certainly has not given up hope of that. In the final event of the PGA Tour season he was in 14th spot with a round to go and five shots off the pace. His chances still looked bleak with nine holes left to play, but he birdied the first six of them and grabbed his fourth win of the year.

Quiros was five clear when he eagled the seventh from eight feet, but his 70 included four bogeys and the last of them came after Lawrie sank a 40-footer for eagle to complete a 66.

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South African Louis Oosthuizen, another former Open champion, had the same score to move into third place on 11 under, only three back.

Lawrie ended nine years without a win in Spain in March, but is still only 163rd in the world and to beat such a star-studded field would be a real feather in the 42-year-old’s cap.