'Celtic Tiger' McIlroy emerges dominant in 2014

Fri Dec 19, 2014 2:46pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A year to forget for an injury-plagued Tiger Woods was savored sweetly by Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy after the 'Celtic Tiger' won two majors in 2014 to regain his status as the game's leading player.

McIlroy ended a stellar campaign with four victories and five runner-up spots in 23 starts worldwide, embellishing his credentials as a genuine golfing great in what many regard as a handover of the 'Tiger' torch to usher in a new 'Rory' era.

While former world number one Woods failed to add to his career major tally of 14 and played just eight tournaments during a winless and truncated season, McIlroy proved to be the player to beat virtually every time he teed off in competition.

McIlroy dominated golf's biggest events in the latter half of 2014 after American left-hander Bubba Watson had clinched the Masters for a second time in three years and Germany's Martin Kaymer had coasted to an eight-shot victory at the U.S. Open.

Swede Henrik Stenson, Australian Adam Scott and Spaniard Sergio Garcia each triumphed once as they also produced impressively consistent golf during the year but McIlroy set himself apart from his closest rivals, just as he did in 2012.

Having endured a turbulent 2013 on and off the course, McIlroy was once again a picture of focus and consistency, finishing no worse than 25th in 17 starts on the 2013-14 PGA Tour and recording three victories among 12 top-10 placings.

He also claimed the European Tour's money list trophy for the second time in three years and played an influential role in Europe's Ryder Cup victory over the United States in September.

McIlroy never looked back after recording his first win of the year at the European Tour's flagship BMW PGA Championship in May, just a few days after breaking up with his tennis-playing fiancee Caroline Wozniacki.   Continued...

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his shot from the second tee during the final round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai November 23, 2014. REUTERS/Nikhil Monteiro