rory wins dubai

Rory McIlroy avenges last week’s loss, blitzes field over weekend to cruise to fourth Dubai title

January 21, 2024
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Ross Kinnaird

Rory McIlroy was 10 shots off the lead heading into the weekend of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic. After a third-round 63, and three birdies on the first nine holes Sunday during the final round, McIlroy then built a four-shot lead after 12 holes at Emirates Golf Club.

After a few wayward tee shots down the stretch, McIlroy made par on the last hole to shoot two-under 70 and win this event for the fourth time, this time at 14-under-par total. Adrian Meronk (71) was at shot back in second place. Cameron Young, the third-round leader by two shots, bogeyed two of his first six holes and remained out of sorts to shoot 74. He finished third, two shots behind McIlroy.

“Felt like I steadied the ship well over the last few holes,” McIlroy said, playing the last five holes even par after making a lone bogey on 13. “It was one of those days where there wasn’t a ton of fireworks just because the course was so difficult, but I held on as best as I could. Thankfully no one around the top of the leaderboard made much of a run.”

Thankfully, too, for McIlroy, there wasn’t a repeat of last week’s performance at the Dubai Invitational, where he three-putted from two feet late on the final day, then drove it into the water on the 72nd hole. Tommy Fleetwood birdied that last two holes to win by a shot.

"I think people were making a bigger deal of it than I was," McIlroy said of last week. "You know, it was a couple of bad mistakes at inopportune times. You know, over 72 holes, you can't look at two instances of bad whenever the rest of it was very, very good.

"I've always tried to take the positives from things, and there was way more positives than negatives last week. That's how I came into this week with that attitude of, you know, the game is in really good shape. Tidy up some of the things that I saw over the last couple of days at the Creek, and I was able to do that."

An 18th hole eagle from McIlroy on Saturday propelled him to the 63 and moved him into the final pairing on Sunday with Young. McIlroy drove the green on the 350-yard par-4 second hole Sunday and he two putted from 30 feet for his first birdie of the day.

The second birdie came on the par-4 eighth hole when he drained a putt from 32 feet. When he made another from 16 feet on the ninth hole, McIlroy was firmly in control. The lead grew to four shots after the 12th hole but McIlroy made bogey on the 13th hole while Meronk made consecutive birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 and suddenly McIlroy’s lead was only one shot.

Meronk made four birdies over the last nine holes, but a bogey on the 16th hurt his case. Young ended with five bogeys, three birdies and struggled with the putter for most of the round.

McIlroy now heads to the PGA Tour to ramp up his run to the Masters after having started his season with the runner-up finish last week to Fleetwood and the victory at Emirates, his fourth after winning in 2009, 2015 and 2023, when he beat Patrick Reed by a shot.

“It’s a great start to the season,” McIlroy said. “It’s a great platform to build from. I know I’m playing good golf. There are still a couple misses off the tee left … a couple little things still to work on.

“These weeks are great. You learn a ton from them. Obviously great to get the competition and come out on top as well.”