In Sun City the previous week a weary Henrik Stenson threatened to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge but fell short, and the Swede showed his class without quite firing on all cylinders again in Dubai at the weekend.
A share of ninth place at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship was sufficient, however, to hold off Danny Willett, Rory McIlroy and Alex Noren and clinch the Race To Dubai.
He had been the clear favourite to top the money list for a second time going into the last two events and, while a third title of the year eluded him, his recent performances endorsed his overall victory.
Stenson’s European Tour first order of merit in 2013 came with success at the Dubai finale and capped a phenomenal “double double” that included equivalent triumphs on the PGA Tour.
But this year – and winning a first Major in such style at the Open – was better still.
That week of golf at Royal Troon will never be forgotten, and was up there with Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson’s famous Duel in the Sun just a few miles down the Ayrshire coast at Turnberry in 1977.
So many great players of this era have not managed to win a Major, such as Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie, and I think overcoming that hurdle has given Stenson even greater belief in himself.
At 40, he is now a better all-round player.
He has mastered hitting long with his 2-wood, and if you can hit fairways like he does then you can bring courses to their knees.
He has also worked very, very hard to improve his short game hugely.
Promising signs for free agent McIlroy
Stenson’s success meant a second year as Race To Dubai runner-up for Danny Willett.
It has been a year of highs and lows for the Masters champion, who has been playing poorly for a while and perhaps needs a good rest over the winter before planning his defence at Augusta.
He may not have finished on a winning note either but I was very impressed with McIlroy. He seems extremely happy with his new clubs and looks well set for a fantastic season next year.
Rory is a free agent regarding his choice of clubs, which is the ideal position to be in. All manufacturers produce magnificent clubs, but some have better drivers and some better irons.
Matt Fitzpatrick, who enjoyed the biggest win of his career in Dubai on Sunday, is also a free agent and seems delighted with the yardage he has gained from switching drivers.
He played alongside Louis Oosthuizen, one of the longest hitters on the circuit, and was up there with him all day. For someone with a wonderful short game already, that’s a real boost.
Fitzpatrick showed great courage in the closing stages, two-putting at 16 and then getting up and down at 17 and 18 as he birdied the last to pip fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton.
At just 22 he is still so young, and racking up wins early on, as the likes of Matteo Manassero also did, is no guarantee of lasting success, but Fitzpatrick is capable of anything.
Hatton’s only bogey of the day at 18 cost him but his three at 17 will long be remembered and, with a breakthrough win at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October, he has also had a great year.
Hull of a win
In a notable week for young English golfers, there was a fantastic win too for Charley Hull in Florida – her first on the LPGA Tour.
She did it without dropping a shot all weekend and that lifts the 20-year-old up to 18th in the world rankings – life-changing stuff.