DUBAI, (Reuters) – Rory McIlroy’s rivals were in awe of his two-shot victory at the DP World Tour Championship and compared the world number one’s form to the dominance 14-times major winner Tiger Woods displayed in his prime.
The Northern Irishman landed his fifth title of the year on Sunday, countering a course-record 62 by Ryder Cup team mate Justin Rose with a stunning sequence of five straight birdies at the conclusion of the final European Tour event of the season in Dubai.
Luke Donald, who played alongside McIlroy in the last round at the Greg Norman-designed Earth course, said the 23-year-old’s performance proved he was the world’s outstanding golfer.
“He showed a lot of grit and determination,” the second-ranked Donald told reporters. “It capped off an amazing year for him
“Rory has been the best player all year and that was some finish. You have to give him a lot of credit for digging deep.
“I think he’ll be around for a long time but it’s good because he’ll push me to work harder,” added the 34-year-old Englishman, who collected three victories of his own this season.
South African Charl Schwartzel, who finished tied for third with Donald, was similarly impressed by the standard of golf McIlroy had produced in 2012.
“Rory is playing like Tiger did in his young days and it’s amazing to see,” said last year’s U.S. Masters champion.
“To watch it happen, and Justin coming up shooting a 10-under 62, just shows you how strong golf is right now.”
Schwartzel’s sentiments were echoed by fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen.
“Rory is probably playing the golf that Tiger was playing when he was on form,” said the 2010 British Open champion after finishing fifth in Dubai.
“At the moment Rory’s in his own little world which is great to see.”
McIlroy’s other victories this year came in the U.S. PGA Championship, his second major win after last season’s U.S. Open triumph, the Honda Classic in Florida and two events in the U.S. PGA Tour’s end-of-season FedExCup playoff series.
He also became the second player, after Donald in 2011, to land the money-list titles on both sides of the Atlantic.