Li edges out McIlroy to win in Dubai

Highlights from the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club
Highlights from the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club

30 January, 2018

Rory McIlroy was within sight of a first title in 17 months after the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic where he lay only one shot behind surprise leader Li Haotong on Saturday.

McIlroy's bogey on 16, a hole he commonly plays so well, was damaging in the context of Li's stunning resurgence.

Despite the excellent form shown early in the year, Rory McIlroy knows he let an elusive first victory in 16 months pass him by.

"Maybe that experience of winning a couple of times around here, being in contention quite a lot, will help me tomorrow".

He is now expected to rise to number 32 in the world.

McIlroy shot a seven-under 65 on Thursday, a 64 in his second round, a 68 in his third round and a 69 today as China's Haotong Li pipped him by a shot.

Li, 22, finished -23 under as both players finished with three-under-par 69s.

The 22-year-old from China made a 10-foot birdie putt on the last after McIlroy had ramped up the pressure by reaching the par-5 18th hole in two shots.

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The Chinese entered the final day a shot clear of McIlroy but trailed by two after ten holes as the four-time Major victor looked on track for a third victory at Emirates Golf Club here. I didn't really leave it in the best spots to be aggressive with my putts.

"I think that (the 15th) was the turning point".

Speaking on the eve of the $3 million Dubai Desert Classic, the 28-year-old Northern Irishman said: "One of the things I am planning to do is have less of an entourage around me at Augusta and treat it as any other tournament".

McIlroy's last win was in August 2016 at the Tour Championship, and he was impressed by Li.

"But I tried until the very end, making two good birdies". I made two good birdies. I made him win it in the end, which was all I could do, and he played very well on the way in, birdieing three of the last four. I just wish I could get a couple of those holes back.

"Being in the positions I've been in and having two close calls the first couple of weeks of the year, it's a little hard".

'Ask me in a few days and we can talk about the positives to take from here and last week in Abu Dhabi but the competitor in me means it's hard to take right now, ' said McIlroy.

Englishman Tyrrell Hatton finished third after a final round 66 while fellow countryman Chris Paisley shot 69 for his second top five finish in a row following his breakthrough victory in South Africa a fortnight ago.

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