DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Haotong Li held off Rory McIlroy to win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic Sunday by a single stroke, denying the Northern Irishman’s bid to win his first title in 17 months.
Haotong finished a tournament-record 23-under-par 265 after a final-round three-under 69 to win by one shot over McIlroy, who also shot a 69.
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.
Haotong started the day one ahead of his Northern Ireland rival and that advantage was quickly gone on the first hole when he made a bogey.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 28, 2018
However, it was a bogey on the par-5 10th by Haotong that led to a two-shot swing when McIlroy made a birdie there, and the advantage remained with the four-time major champion when his bogey on the 11th was matched with another dropped shot by Haotong on the 12th.
But the momentum swung Haotong’s way when he dropped a 20-feet birdie putt on the par-3 15th from the back fringe and McIlroy made a bogey on the 16th after hitting his three-wood off the tee into the waste area.
Both players then birdied the last two holes.
Haotong’s second European Tour win will lift him to around 32nd in the World Ranking, making him the first Chinese player to break into the top 50.
England’s Tyrrell Hatton finished third on 20 under after hitting his second shot into the water on the 18th hole, while France’s Alex Levy was fourth with a 269.