DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy finished the year as Europe's top-ranked golfer for the fourth time - and first since 2015 - despite Jon Rahm winning the DP World Tour Championship on Sunday.
The Spaniard’s two-shot victory over England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Sweden’s Alex Noren was his third in six years at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
"Hopefully people can stop telling me that it was a bad year," Rahm said. "Three wins world wild, three wins in three different continents. Yeah, it wasn't a major championship but it's still a really, really good season. You know, had a second boy this year, a lot of changes at home, it also helps. I got a lot of videos from my kids back home laughing and doing things."
But McIlroy finished the season top of the DP World rankings after Matt Fitzpatrick, his only rival for the Harry Vardon Trophy, blew up around the turn.
The U.S. Open champion needed to win and McIlroy to not finish runner-up, or to finish second and the Northern Irishman to be outside the top seven.
But neither of those scenarios transpired as Fitzpatrick, three off the lead when playing the eighth, double-bogeyed and then dropped another shot at the 10th to end his chances.
McIlroy did not need any of the fireworks of the previous day, when he powered himself into contention with a 65, and while he could have tied Rahm at 20 under had he eagled the last, he could only manage par for a 68 that included six birdies and four bogeys to finish fourth.
“It means a lot. It’s been seven years since I’ve last done it. I’ve won three FedEx Cups since I last won,” McIlroy, who lifted his third FedExCup in August, told Sky Sports television.
“It would have been nice to get one win in there at the end of the year but Jon played an incredible tournament and fully deserved it.”
Rahm, who became the first player to win the tournament three times, began the final day with a one-shot lead and opened with two successive birdies to double his advantage.
Fitzpatrick’s 28-foot birdie at the third got him to 15 under and within two, but things started to unravel with a bogey at the short sixth and even though he immediately clawed back that dropped shot, the calamitous eighth ultimately did in his hopes.
His drive landed in a deep rut in a waste area, his second shot failed to clear the rough. From there, he flew the green, duffed a chip and two-putted from the fringe for a six.
That put him five behind and after missing the fairway at the 10th he dropped another shot and his challenge was over as he finished 13 under, seven adrift.
The only trouble McIlroy, who had three birdies and a bogey in his first four holes, had at the eighth came from the flagstick, which kept out his 56-foot birdie effort.
He three-putted the ninth green, but was not the only one as Hatton did the same for his only bogey in a round of 66.