Li rally denies McIlroy

29 January 2018 03:22:29 GMTPlus11

Li Haotong produced a magical finish to overhaul Rory McIlroy and win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in style with a record 23-under par score at the Emirates GC.

The Chinese entered the final day a shot clear of McIlroy but trailed by two after ten holes as the four-time Major winner surged towards winning the event for the third time in his career.

Li, 22, had looked nervous early in the round after opening with a bogey on the first hole to surrender his overnight advantage over McIlroy.

Birdies at the third and seventh holes steadied the ship but McIlroy matched those efforts and the former world number one appeared to be holding all the aces when he birdied the tenth hole and Li ran up a bogey-six to open up a two-shot gap.

McIlroy offered some hope with a bogey at the 11th and, despite the lead going to two again after the 12th, it was the Chinese that came up with the answers on the home straight.

Li birdied four of the closing six holes to sign for a round of 69, while McIlroy crucially could not save par after an errant drive on the 16th hole. Both players birdied the penultimate hole leaving Li leading by one going up the 72nd hole.

The last four holes was some of the best shots in my life so far.

Li Haotong

McIlroy found the green on the closing par-five in two shots but, after rolling his long eagle putt past the cup, Li made his own birdie from ten-feet to seal victory, rendering McIlroy's closing birdie academic as both players shot the same score on Sunday.

The youngster was delighted with his win and to overcome early nerves, while he can now look forward to the Masters at Augusta in April for the first time.

"Especially the first few holes, I was quite nervous," said Li. "The first hole I made bogey and got to come back really quick, which was good.

"I think most of the time, only two or one behind, so I just want to keep pulling myself in a position and just don't go too far away.

"The last four holes was some of the best shots in my life so far. Happy to see I can hold a trophy here.

"I'm looking forward to my first Masters."

Li is 81.00 to win the Masters, while McIlroy is 9.00 to complete his career Grand Slam of the Majors by donning the Green Jacket.

England's Tyrrell Hatton shot an impressive closing 66 to take third spot in Dubai on 20-under par ahead of Frenchman Alex Levy.

European number one Tommy Fleetwood was in a mammoth 13-way tie for sixth place on 16-under par and can be backed at 36.00 to win the Masters at Augusta.

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