McIlroy Enjoying 'Phenomenal' Year

Now that he's clinched the money-list titles on both the PGA and European tours, Rory McIlroy can cruise the rest of the year. The world's top-ranked player is in the Middle East for the European circuit's final event of the year, the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

The $8 million tournament starts Thursday at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai. The 23-year-old Northern Irishman will be vying for his fifth victory of 2012 against a top-notch field that includes No. 2 Luke Donald, fourth-ranked Lee Westwood, No. 6 Louis Oosthuizen, and seventh-ranked Justin Rose.

Others in the field include major champions Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, Charl Schwartzel and Graeme McDowell. Also on hand will be the winner of last week's Hong Kong Open, Miguel Angel Jimenez, and 2012 European Ryder Cuppers Sergio Garcia, Nicolas Colsaerts and Francesco Molinari.

McIlroy will be paired in the first round with Peter Hanson - another member of the victorious European Ryder Cup squad at Medinah Country Club near Chicago, who edged McIlroy by a stroke in late-October's BMW Masters.

As for winning the earnings title on both tours - a feat first accomplished last year by Donald, McIlroy said he was "proud and honored." On Tuesday, European Tour CEO George O'Grady gave McIlroy a special money clip as recognition.

"I thought we would take this moment to acknowledge the extraordinary performance of Rory this year, winning our Race to Dubai money list before coming to the final championship, and winning the money list in America too," said O'Grady.

"He played brilliantly all year and conducted himself in a manner where anybody would be proud to say, 'He's our champion.' "

"It's been a phenomenal year, but I've still got one tournament left and I want to finish the season strong by picking up two trophies at the end of the week," McIlroy responded.

The young Ulsterman has already won two of golf's major championships, the U.S. Open in 2011 and the PGA Championship this year. He noted on Tuesday he's far from done as far as reaching his long-term goals. "I just want to get my third (major)," he said. "When I get my third then I want to try and get my fourth. A career Grand Slam is probably the next obvious goal."

McIlroy confirmed he's signed a mega-deal with Nike, an agreement estimated to be worth $250 million over 10 years. He disagreed with Nick Faldo - and others - who've questioned whether McIlroy's switch of golf-club manufacturers at this point in his career was a good idea.

"No, not at all," he told reporters regarding whether he was concerned about the switch. "I think all the manufacturers make great equipment nowadays and it's all very similar - a lot of them get their clubs made at the same factories. I don't think it will make any difference."

McIlroy will move to Nike clubs after Dubai and has already tried out his new sticks. "I've started the process of trying a few new things," he said. "I'm still playing with my Titleist clubs - this is the last week, but I've tinkered about a little bit with the new ones, enough to feel comfortable going into next season."

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