RORY McIlroy completed his ninth top 10 finish in 10 starts at the climax of the Abu Dhabi Championship yesterday, but it was not enough to keep him in the world's top 10.
However, Offalyman Shane Lowry broke into the world's top 100 after the best finish of his fledgling professional career since winning the Irish Open. He banked €75,000 for fourth place behind gifted German Martin Kaymer to leave him ranked 89th in the world, jumping from 136th place, leapfrogging Darren Clarke in the process.
McIlroy set Irish hearts racing yesterday as he roared back into contention on the closing holes of the National Course and was justifiably pleased to complete his opening event of 2010 in third place, but he has dropped out of the top 10, down one place to 11, as Ian Poulter took his spot after finishing runner-up to Kaymer.
McIlroy, 20, and Lowry, 22, who a few years back were foursomes partners on the Irish amateur team, brought an impressive week's work to a satisfying conclusion as they both compiled rounds of five-under-par 67. Yet Lowry, who sensationally took the '3' Irish Open title back to Clara as an amateur last May, crossed an important watershed as he performed with the assurance and aplomb of a seasoned pro in the Arabian desert.
It's just eight months since he took his first faltering steps as a professional on the European Tour but, in Abu Dhabi, Lowry proved over four days that not only does he belong among golf's elite but also has the game to compete on a regular basis and win again.
This is not the biggest cheque Lowry has won. He earned €88,000 of the €319,555 he has banked since last May as he finished in a tie for third place with Swedish Ryder Cup star Robert Karlsson in the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix last November.
Yet, in terms of prestige and ranking points, making his presence so strongly felt over the weekend in a tournament featuring eight of the world's top 14 players is a massive fillip to Lowry as he looks forward to the weeks and months ahead.