McIlroy's year to remember has just one major blip
22:30 GMT, 19 November 2012
The fact he will be receiving end-of-season awards left, right and centre says everything about Rory McIlroy's wonderful campaign. But, on the eve of the grand finale at the Dubai World Championship, does his stellar year rank as the best ever by a European golfer
It is certainly right up there. It is better than any managed by Colin Montgomerie, for example, and he won eight orders of merit. Better than any mustered by Lee Westwood, and he won six tournaments in 2000.
Not even some of the greats of the past could claim a season like Rory's. A major, and finishing No 1 on both sides of the Atlantic Bernhard Langer never had a season like that. Neither did Ian Woosnam, during some admittedly great years from 1987 to 1991.
Year of years: Rory McIlroy has tasted success on both sides of the Atlantic in 2012
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What about the outgoing Ryder Cup captain, Jose Maria Olazabal In 1994 he won the Masters, Europe's flagship event at Wentworth, and ran away with the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. But better than a major, two money list titles plus a couple of other big wins
Let's salute Sandy Lyle and what he achieved in 1988. Three wins in America, including the Masters, and two big wins in Europe at the British Masters and the World Match Play Championship. But does fifth on the European order of merit and seventh in America stand muster against numero uno on both tours
Then there's Seve. In 1983 he won the Masters plus regular tournament victories on three different continents. It was the year he first starred in the Ryder Cup. But his annus mirabilus still ranks a hair's breath below a year McIlroy started by becoming world No 1 at the age of just 22 and finished head and shoulders above the No 2, Luke Donald.
So to the top three. We've got Rory. We've got Sir Nick Faldo in 1990. And we've got Padraig Harrington in 2008. In terms of consistency, it isn't a contest. Faldo only managed half a dozen top 10s all year in 1990; McIlroy had 10 in America alone. In 2008, Harrington had only two top 10s in 14 starts in Europe; McIlroy had more than that by March.
But it isn't just about consistency at their level, is it If you asked McIlroy would he swap his season for either of the other two contenders, he'd snap your hand off. That, of course, is because they each won two majors during their year of years, with Faldo winning the Masters and the Open, and Harrington the Open and the PGA.
Trip down Memory Lane: Faldo won the Masters and the Open in 1990
Third on the list of all-time great seasons for McIlroy, then, with the exciting thought there is room for improvement. What about that stodgy middle when he was distracted, and how much better will he be when he trims his schedule from 26 events to a more manageable 22 My hunch is he might have three of the top five all-time great seasons by the time he is through.
As for the current top two, let's give the nod to Sir Nick, who also finished third in the US Open in 1990, and won in Hong Kong.
Westwood taking American Dream seriously
No-one can say there's anything half-hearted about Lee Westwood's impending move to America. He will leave these shores in the middle of next month to defend the Thailand Open. The next time he will touch down on British soil will be the middle of May.
On the move: Westwood won't touch down in Britain until the middle of May
Quote of the Week
'Today was the difference between going back to the Challenge Tour or staying on the European Tour and it was probably the most stressful day of my life. But to pull it off and stay on the main tour, it feels better than a win.'
Highly-rated Englishman Tommy Fleetwood might not have fulfilled his promise this year but the gutsy manner in which he kept his card in South Africa on Sunday suggests that the man who was my 'one to watch' this season really will be worth keeping an eye on in 2013.
Henrik proves class is permanent
Not a great weekend for the doomsayers who think the European Tour is a busted flush. One week after a victory for 19 year old Matteo Manassero, Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is almost 30 years his senior, won in Hong Kong to become the oldest winner. Then there was a win in South Africa for another of the tour's great characters, Henrik Stenson.
Success: Henrik Stenson won in South Africa
Not too many come back from completely misplacing their muse, in the manner that Lee Westwood did, or Paul Lawrie. But Stenson is well on his way to completing his second comeback from the dead.
The first time he went from almost literally not being able to keep the ball on a golf course to the world's top five. This time, he's fighting back after losing millions in the Allen Stanford financial scandal. Last year he played more than a dozen events on each of the two main tours and managed just one top-10 finish. Now he's got his first win in over three years.
His career might be the embodiment of that time-honoured saying: form is temporary but class is permanent.