Dubai: Rory McIlroy may have already secured this year’s Race to Dubai crown, but the world No.1 won’t be satisfied unless his season is topped off with the DP World Tour Championship title as well.
In one way, his early confirmation of the European Tour’s money-list with a third-place finish in Singapore recently frees the 23-year-old Northern Irishman up to focus solely on winning the end of season finale at Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Earth Course from Thursday through to Sunday.
But, with that added Order of Merit impetus removed, the boy from Holywood could just as easily be lacking the necessary motivation to push on — as his missed cut in Hong Kong last weekend suggests.
Either way the feats of his annus mirabilis — securing top spot in the world rankings, becoming only the second person to win the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic, helping Europe to win the Ryder Cup and lifting his second Major, the US PGA Championship — can’t be taken away from him.
But the cherry on top, the most stylish end to the most stylish of seasons is still threatened by 59 of the European Tour’s finest, who will all be itching to take the shine off the Ulsterman’s victory lap over four rounds of the par 72, 7,675 yard course here.
While picking up just over $4.7m from his two wins and ten top-ten finishes in 15 European Tour appearances this season, McIlroy has also accumulated more than $8m from four victories and another ten top-ten finishes from 16 events on the PGA Tour in America.
For topping Europe’s Order of Merit, he automatically earns another $1m of the European Tour’s $3.75m end of season bonus pool, even without having to place a tee this week. But the DP World Tour Championship offers another $8m prize fund, with $1.33m for the winner.
But ask McIlroy and he will say it’s not about the cash but the continuance of form, even if an expected $250m switch from Titleist clubs to Nike next season appears to be widening his wallet at the expense of comfort and confidence.
"Winning is what matters and trying to be the best player I can be," said McIlroy. "Trying to win as many tournaments and Majors as possible is the real goal for me.
"I really want to play well this week and finish this season on a high. There’s been a lot of high points this year, and it would be great to finish on one as well.
"This is definitely a great way to end what has been a great season and I would like to pick up two trophies at the end of the week [not just the Race to Dubai Order of Merit]. Obviously I have to stay right until the end, so I might as well make it worth it.
"I felt a bit flat after last week [Hong Kong], but it’s been nice to have a couple of days off to regroup and get ready for this tournament. You never want to miss cuts. I’ve missed enough cuts this year and I didn’t want to miss another.
"You can never be complacent. You can never just think of it as coming easy to you. You still have to work hard and you still have to dedicate yourself each and every day to trying to become a better player.
"I just want to win as many trophies as possible. Yeah, the money’s nice and it’s great that I never really have to worry about it. I guess in a way I can just concentrate on my golf and try to win tournaments."
Of his Majors target, he said: "I’ve got one in 2011 [The US Open] and I backed it up this year with this year with another Major-winning season [US PGA Championship]. I would love to say 2013 will be similar.
"I’ve always said I’m not going to put a number on how many I can win. I don’t want to do that. I just want to get my third. And when I get my third, I want to try and get my fourth. Obviously I’m half-way to the career Grand Slam, so that’s probably the next obvious goal for me."
Asked if the pending club change will stall what’s widely perceived to be just the beginning of an era of dominance, McIlroy replied: "I’ve started the process of trying a few new things. Obviously I’m still playing with my Titleist clubs this week. This is the last week that I will.
"But I’ve tinkered about a little bit and I’ve tinkered about enough to feel comfortable going into next season.
"I don’t think it will jeopardise my game at all. I think all of the manufacturers make great equipment nowadays and it’s all very, very similar. I mean, a lot of the manufacturers get their clubs made at the same factories as each other. I don’t think it will make a difference at all."