Italy's Francesco Molinari won the Race to Dubai after defending champion Tommy Fleetwood failed to win the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
Needing victory in Dubai to overhaul Molinari, Englishman Fleetwood carded a 68 to finish on 10 under - eight shots behind winner Danny Willett.
Molinari, who won The Open this summer, was confirmed as European number one during the final round.
"It's more than I ever dreamed of achieving," said 36-year-old Molinari.
"I'm really struggling for words."
Willett shot a four-under 68 in the final round to beat fellow Englishman Matt Wallace and American Patrick Reed by two strokes at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
The Race to Dubai victory caps a memorable year for Molinari, who won his first major at Carnoustie in July and became the first European player to seal a perfect 5-0 record in the Ryder Cup in September.
He is the first Italian to become the European Tour's top player.
Molinari said: "I've seen guys that I think are better players than me not winning majors and not winning Order of Merits or Race to Dubai. To achieve those things in one single season is just incredible."
Fleetwood, 27, slipped out of contention with a third-round 74.
"It's just golf, but it does hurt when you have days like that," he said on Saturday.
"I feel the adrenaline might have gone. You kind of know when your time's up. I lasted within two days of the season and it was always a stretch trying to win it."