McIlroy hot on Donald’s heels at World Tour Championship in Dubai

World No 1 demonstrates intent to land the tournament and finish year on a high

Dubai

An errant tee shot at the last by Rory McIlroy denied Dubai the desired one-two in the final group today.

An errant tee shot at the last by Rory McIlroy denied Dubai the desired one-two in the final group today. With Luke Donald in the clubhouse on seven under, the world No 1 required a birdie on the par-five 18th to join the No 2 at the top of the DP World Tour Championship leader board. Alas, he found the creak that threads menacingly across the fairway for the very purpose of catching the avaricious.

Nevertheless, McIlroy’s turbo burst over the back nine demonstrated his intent to land the tournament as well as the Race to Dubai money list already secured. Wide open fairways and velvet greens softened by freak rain turn even golf courses as long as this into coconut shies. And so it was that Donald was able to take it apart with his precision hitting into the pins.

Donald did all the damage between the fifth and 14th holes. McIlroy went to the turn only one under par but a five-birdie streak in seven holes, including a hat-trick from the 14th, brought him through the field into a share of second place.

“I really wanted to make birdie at the last to play with him [Luke] in the final group. I wasn’t able to do that but if I play the way I did today I might have a chance to play with him on Saturday. I want to try to win this tournament and finish what has been a great season in style.”

McIlroy was watched all the way round by his partner of 18 months, Caroline Wozniacki. At one point she doubled as a marshal, holding aloft the “quiet” sign while the official negotiated a rope. Her contribution was hardly required on an opening day of relatively empty galleries. So modest was the turnout they were able to converse unfettered across the fairway as McIlroy walked down the 10th.

“We all know how well Rory has been playing,” said Donald. “He’s been the most consistent player this year and plays well in all the big events. I’d love the challenge. There’s a long way to go but it would be fun for the fans and for TV if, come Sunday, Rory and I are going head-to-head.”

They will have to suppress heavyweight interest elsewhere on the leader board. In the queue at five under are Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer, Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood. A shot further back sit Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel. That’s four major champions plus the world No 4 and No 7.

Three years ago Westwood did the tournament and money-list double targeted by McIlroy this week. Next season marks Westwood’s 20th on tour. He turns 40 in April. He would take just one of McIlroy’s majors, and if he plays like he did yesterday only an idiot would discount it. For him all roads lead to Augusta in April and the first major of the season. To that end he formally ended his relationship with caddie Billy Foster, who is still recovering from a knee injury.

“Time is ticking away. I don’t really have the luxury of waiting around for a caddie. Billy couldn’t really give me a time when he would be back and I needed a base from the start of next year. Billy was bound to be disappointed. We’re good mates, been in each other’s pockets for four, five years and had a lot of good times. It was a tricky call and not one I wanted to make.”

More than 20mm of rain, or almost an inch in old money, hammered down in the early hours taking the edge off greens that had been quickening over the preceding days. With carpets this receptive the Earth Course has few defences. Scotland’s Marc Warren, going out in the fourth group, was the first to take advantage posting a six-under 66 to lead in the clubhouse.

Only eight of the 56 players posted scores over par. Coming in on the mark was pre-tournament favourite Ian Poulter, who matched the six birdies of McIlroy with as many bogeys, including one at the last. If nothing else it yielded a lovely tweet: “Played like the devil today 6,6,6 birdies, pars & bogeys. Hopefully play like the 12 days of Christmas [tomorrow] & have a sack full of goodies.”

Wozniacki spells it out: Rory gets subtle hint for Yuletide

In Rory McIlroy's post-round press conference, in among the questions from hacks, there was one from a Miss Caroline Wozniacki: "You obviously have unbelievable support this week, so if you win, am I going to get a really nice Christmas present, and what am I going to get?" Blimey, does a woman have to beg for an engagement ring nowadays?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power