Rory McIlroy blows two-shot lead as Li Haotong wins Dubai Desert Classic

Jan 30, 2018, 01:03
Rory McIlroy blows two-shot lead as Li Haotong wins Dubai Desert Classic

"Played really solid. Especially had a couple up-and-downs and was quite happy to shoot eight-under on this course", said Li, who will become the first male Chinese player to crack the top 50 in the world rankings if he goes on to win.

As good as that was, however, it was not good enough.

The four-time major victor sits on 19 under par after Round 3 Saturday, just one shot behind China's Li Haotong. The 22-year old, ranked No 60 in the world, matched McIlroy's closing 69 to maintain his overnight lead and claim the title. That run included a hole in one on the par-3 fourth hole with a 9-iron shot from 171 yards.

Two pure blows to the par five 18th, played into the wind, set up another two-putt birdie for McIlroy, while Li missed the fairway and had to lay up short of the water in two. I just wish I could get a couple of those holes back.

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Rory McIlroy may have been satisfied with getting in the mix in Abu Dhabi in his first outing in more than three months but a dose of Dubai disappointment darkened his mood.

From 110 yards he hit it to 12ft and, with his silken, nerveless putting stroke, holed for a new tournament record score of 23 under par and the biggest day of his career.

"The competitor in me is very disappointed right now", said the 28-year-old, victor here in 2009 and 2015.

"The back nine's been good to me this week", said the four-time major victor.

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McIlroy, who finished his second round in the morning, surprisingly struggled for the first time in seven rounds into his comeback from a three-month layoff, and was 1-over par at the turn in the third round. "It was incredible to play with Rory and learn so much from him".

McIlroy has now finished third and second in his two starts since calling an early end to an injury-plagued and winless 2017 campaign, but will rue his wayward drive on the 16th among an otherwise fine display from the tee.

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". I always want to win.

"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".

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"The Asian Tour is where I started and to be able to get a win here really means a lot", Peterson said. Hatton was to finish third at 20 under, one ahead of Alexander Levy.

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