Published Sunday, 11 November 2012
Rory McIlroy plays a shot during the final round of the Singapore Open. (© Getty)
A 30-foot eagle putt on the final green on Sunday made McIlroy the European Tour's youngest money list winner since Sandy Lyle in 1980.
But it was only when 19-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero also eagled the same hole more than two hours later that McIlroy triumphed.
Already with the PGA Tour title in the bag, the 23-year-old world number one emulated the double achieved by Luke Donald last season when Manassero beat South African Louis Oosthuizen with a 12-foot putt at the third play-off hole.
If Oosthuizen had won he could still have caught McIlroy, but instead Manassero became the first player to win three times on the circuit before the age of 20. Not even Seve Ballesteros managed that.
McIlroy, watched during the week by girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, stormed through to third place with a closing six-under-par 65.
"I left myself a little bit too much to do to win, but it was a great way to finish off the round and the tournament," said the Co Down star, who still has his defence of the Hong Kong Open and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to come this next fortnight.
The race would still have been alive if either Peter Hanson or Oosthuizen had played in Hong Kong or at this week's South African Open, but they have not entered.
On clinching the money list double McIlroy said: "It really is hugely satisfying to finally become the European number one, especially after finishing second two of the last three years.
"It has always been one of my goals ever since securing my Tour card five years ago, but then to also end the year as both European and PGA Tour number one is just amazing.
"I feel so proud and humbled to join so many fabulous names in Europe who have won the Order of Merit.
"To be able to accomplish this goal with still two events remaining means that I can head to my UBS Hong Kong Open defence and the DP World Championship Dubai without that added pressure and just really enjoy my golf.
"Winning a second major championship (the USPGA in August by eight shots just like his US Open triumph last season) already made it a fabulous season, but then to follow Luke Donald in becoming number one in both Europe and the States is the icing on the cake after a fabulous season.
"I set myself a number of ambitious goals at the start of the year, and to have ticked so many of the boxes feels great.
"A lot of hard work went into this and I am really proud of what I've achieved in 2012. I would like to give special thanks to the team around me for all the support they have given me throughout the year.
"I've still got two events remaining this year and the goal is still to try and win at least once more before the end of the year. Beyond that I'm looking forward to a good break over the winter!
"I've got a healthy lead in the world rankings, but with so many very good players on both sides of the Atlantic it will not be a time to be resting on my laurels. My goal is to push on in the new year.
"Monty (Colin Montgomerie) won eight Order of Merits in his prime and I have won one, so there is plenty of ground to make up.
"Also Jack Nicklaus won 18 Majors and I now have my name on two, so targeting the majors will still be my main focus next season."