Dubai drubbing for Irish golfers

[caption id="attachment_68406" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Shane Lowry was joint 8th."]


There will be plenty of fond memories from 2011 for Ireland’s professional golfing contingent to look back on during the cold winter nights looming, but last week’s season-ending Dubai World Championship won’t make the personal highlight reels.

Rory McIlroy failed in his bid to win the Race to Dubai money title. Graeme McDowell dropped out of the top 15 on the same list, so no share of the bonus pool to him. Darren Clarke, Michael Hoey and Peter Lawrie were bottom feeding throughout the event. Only Shane Lowry, who finished joint-eighth, had a reason to feel pleased upon departing the Middle East.

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The leaderboard had a familiar look in that Alvaro Quiros again occupied the top rung at the end of the second round. Last week in Hong Kong, he shared that position with McIlroy, only to falter on Sunday. This week, he stuck there the rest of the way to post a 2-stroke victory over Paul Lawrie. World number one Luke Donald was another stroke back in third place, which was good enough to claim the 2011 European Tour money title, with McIlroy running second in that category.

McIlroy ran into early trouble, taking a double-bogey 7 at the second hole. But that didn’t stop him from going on a rampage on the back nine, where he racked up six birdies to play that stretch in 30. His 66 for the day left him only two strokes off Peter Hanson, the overnight leader.

McIlroy’s slide down the leaderboard began late in Friday’s second round, when he picked up bogeys at 17 and 18. He came back on Saturday to play the front nine in three over par. He shot 71 in each of the final three rounds to finish nine under par for the event at 279, which left him 10 strokes behind Quiros.

“I just couldn’t get anything going when I needed to,” McIlroy said. “I think that I played a nine-hole stretch on Friday night and Saturday morning in five over par. I think that’s really where the tournament got away from me.”

McIlroy will put the clubs away for the rest of the year, anticipating a return in Abu Dhabi the final week of January.

“Can’t wait,” McIlroy said of his pending vacation. “Can’t wait not to have to get up and practice or hit a shot and people telling me what to do or where to go, or just have a few weeks off would be nice.”

Despite his fatigue, McIlroy reviewed 2011 in positive terms.

“I’ve made great progress this year with my game, with my results, with everything,” McIlroy said. “I feel like I’m swinging the club as good as I ever have. I feel like my body is as strong as it’s ever been. This year has been a massive step in the right direction.

You know, there’s a lot of positive things going into next year.”

The final result had repercussions for McDowell, as well. He went into the tournament 13th among the players eligible for the $7.5 million bonus pool to be divvied up among the top 15. Although he finished tied for 11th in Dubai, he slipped to 16th on the money list, bypassed by Quiros, Hanson and Louis Oosthuizen.

McDowell’s results were a reverse mirror image of McIlroy’s. He opened with three rounds of 71, only to close with 66. He bogeyed the first hole on Sunday and then caught fire, taking seven strokes off par the rest of the way.

Lowry shot 277 to stand eight strokes behind Quiros. He fired rounds of 69, 70, 68 and 70, avoiding any serious missteps along the way. He finished 41st on the money list.

Down near the bottom of the leaderboard could be found Peter Lawrie, who tied for 51st place at 293 (75-74-71-73), Hoey, joint-54th at 296 (75-72-76-73), and Clarke in 57th place at 299 (76-72-75-76).

Clarke was one stroke under par through 12 holes in the first round, when he went badly off, coughing up bogeys on five of the six finishing holes. Oddly enough, he played that stretch only one over par the remaining three days. Thereafter, the front nine gave him fits, leaving him six strokes on the wrong side of par. He still managed to finish 11th on the Race to Dubai money list, however.