(CNN) -- Rory McIlory and Phil Mickelson found form in the desert despite losing out on a dramatic final day at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
Spain's Pablo Larrazabal may have walked off into the sunset with the $2.7m prize but the major winners saw the silver lining at their first tournament of the 2014 season.
"What a fun week this has been," enthused Mickelson, the world No.5, despite finishing an agonizing one shot off the lead alongside McIlroy.
"I am happy with the way I played and felt better with my swing each day."
McIlroy was a little more irked by the events of the weekend after he was slapped with a two-stroke penalty Saturday.
"I feel like I'm standing here and I should be 15 under par for the tournament and winning by one," said McIlroy, whose foot fault in the third round was pointed out by his playing partner's caddie.
"I played the least shots of anyone this week. So, I can count it as a moral victory more than anything else.
"It's frustrating but I've played well the whole week. It's a very positive start to the season so I'm not going to let one little negative ruin that."
A ding-dong final round at the Abu Dhabi tournament saw the lead change hands several times as overnight leader Craig Lee slid out of contention.
At the eighth hole, world No. 7 McIlroy had moved into the lead as he clipped in his third birdie of the day.
Then at the turn, Mickelson moved into the sole lead on 12 under only to unravel at the 13th where he tried to hit the ball out of a bush and carded a three-over-par seven.
"I ended up going with a 3-wood off that tee and just blocked it in a terrible spot," the American explained. "I tried to right hand it out and I double hit it. I don't know how, but it happened."
McIlroy finished off the day with a birdie at the 18th for a very tidy round of 68 but had to rely on Larrazabal cracking to get his hands on the trophy.
Mickelson needed an eagle at the last to snatch the silverware but his final shot stayed out and he had to settle for a birdie.
Barcelona-born Larrazabal held his nerve to sink a birdie on the final green and win by a single stroke for his third career European Tour title.
"It just feels unbelievable," he told reporters. "Today has been very special, to fight against Rory and Phil.
"I don't know what it does to my career. I don't know if this gets me into any of the majors. I just want to go back to the hotel and celebrate."