Published: Dec 04, 2011 6:50 PM EST
Updated: Dec 05, 2011 7:30 AM EST

SUN CITY, South Africa (AP) - Luke Donald could have played the last round at Sun City as a history maker. Only Rory McIlroy didn't let that happen.

Shortly before the top-ranked Donald teed off at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Sunday, No. 2-ranked McIlroy holed a birdie from the bunker on No. 18 to seal a come-from-behind win at the Hong Kong Open and keep the race for Europe's money title alive. Just.

With Donald still around €790,000 ($1 million) ahead, McIlroy has to win at next weekend's season-ending Dubai World Championship and hope the world's best player is outside the top nine to prevent Donald topping both lists either side of the Atlantic.

That final-round fightback at Fanling by McIlroy delayed - and might still prevent - Donald's march to an unprecedented double.

Donald had warned before the Sun City tournament that he hadn't yet "locked up" both money titles. McIlroy made sure that's still true heading to the last tournament of 2011.

"I didn't expect anything less from Rory," Donald said after ending a quiet return from a five-week break with a level-par 72 for seventh place. "I knew he'd put the pressure on me and make it tough going but I've still got a nice comfortable lead. I think the advantage is still in my court."

Over a million euros ($1.3 million) ahead of McIlroy before Sunday, Donald still checked the Hong Kong scores as they came through midmorning South African time before heading out for his final round at Gary Player Country Club.

"I turned on and saw Rory was having a good day and some of the guys ahead of him weren't putting too much pressure on him," Donald said.

After Hong Kong, the European Tour's Race to Dubai - and Donald's date with history - comes down to the final straight. And the Englishman heads to Dubai with some work still to do to hold off the chasing U.S. Open champion.

Donald carded 70-71-70-72 at Sun City and didn't get going after a break of more than a month following his own late surge to clinch the U.S. money prize in October. His short game was nowhere near as good as it's been this season.

"I didn't quite have everything working in one particular round," Donald said of Sun City. "In the first two rounds I struggled a bit off the tee. I actually played pretty well on Saturday and didn't get much for my round.

"Today (Sunday), I pretty much two-putted my way around for an even par. So it was a mixed bag."

It was some way off the blistering six straight birdies on the back stretch last time Donald played to top the U.S. PGA Tour's money list.

Donald's scintillating finish to win Disney's Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic snatched the U.S. money title from Webb Simpson right at the end and put him on course for unprecedented success on both money lists.

Just as Donald's back-nine rally took him past Simpson at the U.S. tour's season-ender, so a late, late surge from McIlroy could deny Donald in Dubai.

"It was the same in Disney except this time I have the lead. Hopefully I can hang on to the lead," Donald said.

The world's top two players are the contenders for the prize, giving the European season - and the golfing year - some climax at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Will both men fall back on their favored styles in pursuit of success? The 22-year-old McIlroy will have to.

He'll likely attack the Jumeirah course with youthful exuberance to chase the end-of-season victory he needs. It worked in Hong Kong, where McIlroy went for broke and snatched the €341,723 ($458,000) winner's check to put him in range of Donald.

"It meant a lot knowing that I had to go out there and play well to keep myself alive in the Race to Dubai," McIlroy said. "To produce the sort of golf I did today was very pleasing."

Just inside the top 10 in Dubai is good enough for Donald at a course he conceded doesn't suit him. The Englishman built his success in 2011 on a bunch of similar, solid finishes near the top of the leaderboard.

Topping the European money rankings would be "the icing on the cake," Donald said, following his breakthrough year.

"It would mean history. No one's ever done it (win both money lists). It would be a lot of satisfaction for all the hard work."

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Follow Gerald Imray at http://twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP