What We Learned: Dubai


Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from recent tournaments and news developments. This week, our writers weigh in with their thoughts on world No. 1 Rory McIlroy closing out the European Tour season with his fifth worldwide victory of the year at the DP World Tour Championship.

OK, I’ll admit it: There are benefits to nonstop golf.

It’s Nov. 25. The FedEx Cup ended more than two months ago. The last major was contested more than three months ago. Yet this morning, you could have flipped on the TV, poured a cup of coffee and watched as world No. 1 Rory McIlroy (paired with world No. 2 Luke Donald) tracked down world No. 7 Justin Rose, with world No. 6 Louis Oosthuizen also in the hunt. And this week, if you’re interested, Tiger Woods is playing in California alongside all but one of his U.S. Ryder Cup teammates. And next week, there’s the Shark Shootout and the European Tour’s 2013 season opener and the Thailand Golf Championship. No shortage of world-class golf.

Golf could use an offseason, no doubt, if only to hit the refresh button and take a collective breath and create storylines for the following year. But what we have now isn’t terrible, either. – Ryan Lavner

Titleist has been criticized in recent months for grooming Rory McIlroy into his position as the world’s best golfer, only to play catch-and-release now that he’s finally there. (To be fair, McIlroy himself has been condemned more for chasing the money with another equipment manufacturer going forward, rather than keeping with the status quo.) The reality, though, is that the company now finds itself in a win-win scenario – even if it comes via the loser’s bracket in the Race To Rory. In his last nine starts playing Titleist equipment, McIlroy won four times, including a thrilling performance in Dubai to prevail by two strokes on Sunday. That he did so while wielding tools soon to be banished to the back of his garage either speaks volumes about him or the tools themselves – or maybe both. If Rory begins 2013 the way he ended 2012, he’ll easily answer that question. Any struggles, though – and with increased expectations, any week without a W will be considered by many as a struggle – and talk will turn to his improbably poor decision to leave Titleist, in essence providing free advertising for the manufacturer that its competition couldn’t buy with $200 million. If you’ve got to lose the world’s best player, at least this would be a pretty strong consolation prize. – Jason Sobel

Rory McIlroy is the story of 2012. Sure, the Northern Irishman was on the rise in 2011, fresh off his maiden major at Congressional and a record-setting season, but in ’12 he distanced himself from the field and endured the first slump of his career. Following a place, win, show (second, first, third) start to his PGA Tour season, McIlroy missed three cuts in four starts and tied for 60th at the Open Championship, prompting some to question his game, focus and motivation. Since that summer swoon, however, he won three times on Tour, Sunday’s season finale on the European Tour in Dubai and money titles on both sides of the Atlantic divide. Not bad for a 23-year-old, second-year Tour player. – Rex Hoggard

Absence doesn't always make the heart grow fonder. I don't miss the Skins Game. Today's game has little personality and $120K carry-overs don't mean much to the guys anyone would want to watch. It would be fun to see players bet their own money, like in a practice round. Phil telling Tiger, 'I got 5 grand says you miss this putt.' But that will never fly. Thanks for the memories, Skins Game. Rest in peace. – Mercer Baggs

We’ll never really know just how tired Rory McIlroy was. We all heard the sound bites. We all saw the Twitter photo of McIlroy asleep on the beach.

If Sunday is what being pooped looks like, the golf world is really in trouble.

What McIlroy accomplished in Dubai, making birdie on his last five holes to defeat Justin Rose by two shots at the DP World Tour Championship, was one more reminder what professional golf is in for in the era of McIlroy.

As if we needed any more reminders.

McIlroy had already sewn up the money list before he stuck a peg in the ground Thursday. He’d already acquitted himself as the best player on the planet, by virtue of his dual money titles, highlighted by an eight-shot romp at the PGA Championship (where he overslept before his final round at Kiawah – maybe he really was tired).

Just wait until the kid tightens up his schedule next season. He’ll be a bit more rested then. The golf world is on notice. – Damon Hack

Rory McIlroy is an emotional roller coaster. He wowed us yet again with his final five birdies at the DP World Tour Championship en route to his fifth worldwide win this year, but the young Jedi missed the cut in Hong Kong just one week ago citing fatigue and lethargy. He is the clear world No. 1 and deserving of the title any which way you slice it, but the 23-year-old still lacks stability. Not that I’m complaining – I plan to sit back and enjoy the ride – but I certainly have a newfound appreciation for Miss Wozniacki. – Bailey Mosier