‘I showed a lot of mental strength’: Rory McIlroy holds off Patrick Reed for thrilling win in Dubai

rory mcilroy swings

Rory McIlroy fired a final-round 68 to hold off Patrick Reed and take the title at the Dubai Desert Classic.

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It may be a new year, but the result is all the same — Rory McIlroy is a champion once again.

The No. 1 player in the world birdied the final hole at the Dubai Desert Classic Monday morning to earn a one-shot victory over Patrick Reed. McIlroy, who fired a final-round 68, holed a 14-footer at the last to best Reed by a shot after his American nemesis shot 65 in the group ahead to post the clubhouse lead.

“It means a lot,” McIlroy said. “Just ecstatic that I gave myself an opportunity the first week back out and, yeah, again as I said I managed my game well. I definitely feel like there’s tons of room for improvement but it’s a great start to the year.”

McIlroy’s victory did not come without plenty of controversy along the way.

Early in the week, “Teegate” dominated the headlines after McIlroy took exception to be subpoenaed by Reed’s lawyer last month.

“I was subpoenaed by his lawyer on Christmas Eve,” McIlroy said. “So of course, trying to have a nice time with my family and someone shows up on your doorstep and delivers that, you’re not going to take that well. So again, I’m living in reality, I don’t know where he’s living. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t expect a hello or a handshake.”

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The range spat was only the beginning of the controversy that followed Reed around all week. On Sunday, the former Masters champ found himself in another peculiar rules situation after his ball appeared to be lost in a palm tree. Reed eventually identified his ball from the ground to avoid a stroke-and-distance penalty, although pundits were none too pleased.

McIlroy avoided naming Reed in his victory remarks, although he did allude to the week’s incidents as motivation for his final-round performance.

“I think mentally today was probably one of the toughest rounds I’ve ever had to play because it would be really easy to let your emotions get in the way and I just had to really concentrate on focusing on myself,” McIlroy said. “Forget who was up there on the leaderboard, and I did that really, really well. I feel like I showed a lot of mental strength out there today, and again, something to really build on for the rest of the year.”

The win is McIlroy’s 15th on the DP World Tour and his first since 2019.

“This is probably sweeter than it should be or needs to be but I feel like I’ve still got some stuff to work on,” he said. “You know, as I said, it’s a great start to the year and a really good foundation to work from.”


Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.