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McIlroy wins in Hong Kong to stay on Donald's heels

Rory Mcllroy of Northern Ireland hits from a bunker on the 18th green after winning the Hong Kong Open golf tournament
Rory Mcllroy of Northern Ireland hits from a bunker on the 18th green after winning the Hong Kong Open golf tournament

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy boosted his hopes of finishing the year as Europe's top golfer when he sensationally holed a 15-foot bunker shot for birdie at the last to capture the Hong Kong Open on Sunday.

The U.S. Open champion, runner-up in Hong Kong twice before, came from three strokes behind heading to the final round to win by two strokes, firing a five-under-par 65 for a 12-under-par tally.

World number two McIlroy needed to win or finish second in Hong Kong to have any chance of denying Luke Donald the unprecedented feat of achieving the European and PGA Number One titles in the same season.

The 22-year-old McIlroy, who won his fourth professional title, will also need to finish in the top two and above Donald in next week's Dubai World Championship to deny him both money-list titles.

McIlroy said he had also been fired up by rivalry with British world number three Lee Westwood, who recorded a 62 to move seven strokes clear of the field after the Sun City Challenge third round in South Africa on Saturday.

"When I woke up this morning and saw that Lee Westwood shot 62 in Sun City, I thought I really needed to win to stay above him in the world rankings, and that was a little bit of motivation for me," McIlroy told reporters.

"After two place finishes here in Hong Kong, if feels like this win has been a long time coming, to be honest.

"It's just fantastic. I've loved this city, I've loved this golf course. I played my first Hong Kong Open in 2007; I felt like it owed me something after losing the play-off in 2008.

"I had to wait a few years for it to finally happen but to get my hands on this trophy and to win this tournament is very special."

McIlroy's first-prize check of 341,723 euros allowed him to move from third to second place on the Race to Dubai money list, 789,789 euros behind Donald.

For McIlroy to deny Donald the two tour titles, he will need to win the season-ender in Dubai and see his fellow Briton finish outside the top 20 in the elite, 60-player field.

"One of my goals going out today was to win this tournament to keep myself in with a shout next week," McIlroy said.

It's still very dependent on what Luke does because he's got such a big lead but if I can somehow get myself into contention next week, you never know."

McIlroy had five birdies over the last day, with the best one being his last when he holed out to deny Frenchman Gregory Havret who also recorded a 65 to finish on 10 under par for his best placing of the season.

Havret collected a check of 227,813 euros to move from 43rd to 25th in the Race to Dubai.

"It would have been great to win like Gregory (Bourdy) won in 2009, and I had this in mind and I thought, he could win, why not me," said Havret.

"But Rory seems to like the 18th hole and he managed a very efficient shot.

"It is probably one of the toughest finishing holes on the European Tour, if not the toughest, so to follow Rory into the hole by holing my long putt for par was really good."

Defending Hong Kong Open champion Ian Poulter shared fourth place in recording a 66.

(Reporting by Bernie McGuire; Editing by Clare Fallon.)