By David French
DUBAI (Reuters) - Sweden's Henrik Stenson has won European Tour's Order Of Merit for the second time after none of his challengers could replace him at the top of the money list on the final day of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Sunday.
The title caps a special year for the 40-year-old, who claimed his maiden major title at the British Open in July as well as a silver medal at golf's first showing at the Olympics for 112 years.
"It's been an amazing year. I didn't think I was going to be able to top 2013 but I think, as a whole, I think I have done that," Stenson told reporters, referring to the year of his first Race to Dubai win.
He added while he had not played consistently throughout the year, "at the right times I've played some great golf".
Stenson finished the tournament in some style, carding a seven-under round of 65 which included a run of five birdies in the opening seven holes, as well as one on the final hole.
"I felt like if I was going to be crowned Europe's number one, I might as well play some golf the last day, and I certainly did that," Stenson said.
Stenson's performances up until mid-way through day three had opened the door for one of his rivals for the money-list title to potentially sneak ahead, but a string of birdies on the back nine on Saturday teed him up to stamp his authority on proceedings early on day four.
Ultimately, Stenson's main challenge on the final day came from the man with the smallest chance of overtaking him: world number two, and 2015 order of merit winner, Rory McIlroy.
Needing to win the Dubai tournament, which would also give him the world number one spot, and hope Stenson finished near the bottom of the field, McIlroy had left himself too much to do after a sub-standard first day.
One of the Swede's playing partners on Sunday, the Northern Irishman tore up the front nine with an eagle and five birdies. He finished at seven-under for the day, tied with Stenson overall for the tournament.
"He (Stenson) is one of the most consistent players in the world for nearly 10 years," McIlroy told reporters. "It was great to see his consistency rewarded, not just with the Race to Dubai but with a major championship as well."
Fellow Swede Alex Noren, seven-under overnight, had possibly the best chance of beating Stenson on the final day. Despite three birdies on the back nine, he could not do enough to rein in Stenson and concluded the tournament with a double-bogey at the last.
England's Danny Willett, second in the money list going into Dubai, fell out of contention after a four-over third round.
He carded a two-under final round but was clearly struggling with his right shoulder, in particular off the tee. Willett told reporters he had slept awkwardly on it last night and woke up in discomfort.
(Reporting by David French; Editing by Toby Davis)