Bunker Mentality

Incredible McIlroy moving away from rest of field

To be honest, there never really was a doubt who the best player in the world was coming into the European Tour's season-ending Race to Dubai event.

Rory McIlroy had four wins, more than $9 million in season earnings, a record-setting victory at the PGA Championship, the US PGA Tour and European Tour money titles, and the US Tour Player of the Year award on his CV.

His No. 1 ranking proved he was the best player in the world. But on Sunday at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, McIlroy reminded the golf world that the gap between the twenty-something phenom and the rest of the pack is starting to widen.

He held off a hard-charging Justin Rose, and closed with 66, including five straight birdies to finish the round, to win by two shots.

"I couldn't have wished for the season to end any better," McIlroy said after his round. "Coming here with the [European Tour's] Race to Dubai wrapped up I wanted to win the tournament trophy too and that's what I've done.

"It's a great way to finish a great season."

The win in Dubai was McIlroy's fifth of the season, which is more than any other player in the sport. Not only that, his $10,947,717 in season earnings was the sixth richest in golf history behind only Tiger Woods (he owns four of the top five) and Vijay Singh.

Yep, 2012 was a good year for McIlroy, who went from answering, "Can he close?" and, "Was his record-setting win at the US Open a fluke?" questions to, "Is this the start of a special run?" in the span of six months.

Over the past couple a years where the top spot in the world rankings traded hands like a game of hot potato, it was nearly impossible to peg one player as the undisputed best player in the world.

However, following McIlroy's impressive season that included come-from-behind wins, dominating performances and enough highlight-reel putts to fill up an entire DVD, we finally head into 2013 with an undisputed No. 1 - McIlroy's 4.3 OWGR margin is the largest since 2010 - who not only has multiple Majors on his CV, but the game to stay in the top spot for years to come.

Sure, we thought Luke Donald looked like a legitimate No. 1 last year when he became the first player in golf history to win the US and European money titles in the same year. But this time around it feels different.

We don't have to question McIlroy's CV - Donald still doesn't have a Major - and the way the 23-year-old finished out this season, there's no reason to believe he's going to slow down any time soon.

Jonathan Wall, Devil Ball Golf