Resurgent McIlroy off to Dubai on a high

Superb 65 earns Ulsterman second title in a month to set up European Tour showdown

The Hong Kong Open does not sound as prestigious as the US Open, but Rory McIlroy revealed "that was the most excited I have ever been on a golf course" after shooting a brilliant 65 to win in Fanling yesterday.

Plainly this was a title for which the 22-year-old was desperate. Not only does he adore the layout, but there was so much resting on the victory. Said McIlroy: "I had a lot to play for – trying to keep my hopes alive for the Race to Dubai and, after waking up to find out Lee [Westwood] had shot a 62 in Sun City, I knew I needed to produce a really good score to win if I wanted to keep my world No 2 ranking. It was nice to be able to do both."

McIlroy did so in emphatic style, chipping in on the last. The Ulsterman came into the event feeling the effects of 10 weeks on the road but after a 12-hour sleep followed, naturally, by a 5km run in the morning, shrugged off the fatigue which plagued him during Saturday's third-round 70. All the pressure was also shrugged off: McIlroy has had his doubters when it comes to surviving in the heat of battle.

Starting the day three behind, he conjured a five-under final round for a 12-under total which ultimately saw him prevail by two shots over France's Gregory Havret. After four birdies and no bogeys he came to the 18th with a one-shot lead and so the spotlight glared on a supposedly brittle temperament.

In the circumstances,an up-and-down from a greenside bunker would have been extremely commendable – but McIlroy had something more impressive in store. The ball disappeared and he punched the air.

With last month's win in China, this was McIlroy's fifth career title and his third of the year. The Shanghai Masters netted him £1.25m, but this £295,000 first prize meant more to McIlroy. Not only does it give him an outside chance of overhauling Luke Donald at the Dubai World Championship, the season-ending finale which begins on Thursday – if he wins and Donald finishes outside the top 10, McIlroy collects a near-£1m jackpot – but a few Hong Kong ghosts were exorcised as well. He had finished runner-up there twice, including an agonising play-off loss to Lin Wen-tang three years ago.

"That's the most excited I've ever been on a golf course," he said. "I just hit a perfect bunker shot and once it landed on the green, it never looked like going anywhere else. I think you could see how much that meant to me. It was just incredible to see the ball drop and realise I'd finally won this tournament. I've loved it ever since I played my first one here in '07. I felt like the last [hole] owed me something after what happened in the play-off, in a way."

The Ulsterman added: "I've given myself a shout in Dubai. It's very dependent on what Luke does, because he's got such a big lead [£680,000] but if I can somehow get myself into contention, you never know."

In South Africa, Westwood duly converted Saturday's remarkable 10-under round into a successful defence of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. With a six-stroke lead, Westwood was able to post a one-under 73 for a 15-under total to beat Robert Karlsson by two strokes and so collect the £830,000 first prize.

"I love playing this course and to win back-to-back titles is a bit special," said Westwood, who last year won by eight shots. "Yesterday was probably the best round I've ever played. It set me up to play conservatively today. It's very satisfying."

The quality of that 62 was highlighted on the scoreboard. It was the best round of the week – by five shots.

Donald, playing his first event in five weeks, finished 10 shots behind his fellow Englishman in seventh, but as he heads to Dubai, where he will bid to become the first player ever to win both the US and European money lists in the same year, he will be happy to have blown away the rust.

Last night all eyes were on the Chevron World Challenge in California, where Tiger Woods was attempting to win his first title in more than two years. The former world No 1, who promotes the event at Sherwood Country Club, was one behind Zach Johnson after a disappointing third-round 73 in windy conditions on Saturday. Johnson holed his seven-iron shot from the fairway to eagle the 18th to post a 68 and, on eight-under, overtake Woods.

As Woods headed into the final round he was far from disheartened. "Even though I made three bogeys on par fives, and had two three-putts, I played well," Woods said. "I hit a lot of good shots that ended up in bad spots because I had bad gusts. Most of the time today, it wasn't me. So be it. That's the way it goes. I'm right there with a chance."

general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

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
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before