Rory McIlroy came up just short of becoming the World No.1 after losing to Hunter Mahan in the final of the Accenture WGC Match play at Dove Mountain.
England’s Luke Donald still tops the rankings but the gap between both McIlroy and Lee Westwood has closed considerably following their high finishes this week.
Having defeated World No.3 Westwood 3&1 in the semi-final, 22-year-old McIlroy struggled on the front nine against Mahan, who made the most birdies of any player all week.
After being four down through 10 holes, McIlroy rallied with a chip-in eagle at the 11th and three consecutive birdies from the 13th to reduce the deficit to just two down.
But the Northern Irishman had left himself with too much to do and pars at 16 and 17 from Mahan were good enough to earn 2&1 victory and his second WGC title, having won the Bridgestone Invitational in 2010.
“I played a great back nine but left too much work to do," said McIlroy. "There was a little stretch around five, six, seven and eight where I lost the match. When I hit the tee shot on 15 I thought 'here we go' but Hunter made a good up and down and then I knew it would be tough after that."
McIlroy is now looking forward to the Masters, which starts on 5 April. He said: "I can't wait. That's what I'm building up to. I've got two events before the Masters and it would be nice to get a couple of good results before that."
Lee Westwood lost on the final hole to American Mark Wilson in the consolation match but can be pleased with his fourth-place finish having never got past the second round previously at the event.
Elsewhere, on the PGA Tour, rookie John Huh, playing in only his fifth PGA Tour event, beat Robert Allenby on the eighth hole of a sudden death play-off to win the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Allenby double-bogeyed the final hole in regulation play, afterwards saying he played the hole ‘like a rookie’.