DUBAI (AFP) – World number one Rory McIlroy produced a masterclass of how to protect a lead on the final day as he won his second Dubai Desert Classic title on Sunday, matching the lowest winning score in the history of the tournament.
At the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club on Sunday, the Northern Irishman was solid in his final-round two-under par 70.
And even though it was his worst round in four days, it was enough for his 10th European Tour title. It was his fourth win in his last seven starts on the European Tour. The other three finishes were second places.
McIlroy tallied 22-under par 266, matching the four-day efforts of Thomas Bjorn in beating Tiger Woods in 2001 and Stephen Gallacher in 2013.
Starting the day four shots ahead, McIlroy finally won by three shots over Sweden’s Alexander Noren (65), who is on a medical exemption after playing just two tournaments in 2014 because of a tendonitis of wrist.
Gallacher made a spirited defence of his title, eventually finishing third at 16-under par, while there was a five-way tie for fourth place at 273, including world number 12 Martin Kaymer and France’s Gary Stal, the man who took full advantage of the German’s final round collapse in Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago.
McIlroy, who is now expected to take to the stands in a Dublin court next week in his ongoing legal battle with his former management company, did not let anything waver his focus.
His only mistake of the day came on the par-3 seventh hole, where he pulled his tee shot left of the green, and then hit a poor chip 15 feet short of the hole and missed the putt.
But apart from that, the world number one never got into much trouble, kept his ball in play and one solid par followed the other.
“It was a bit of a cruise control out there. I knew if I just went out there and played a solid round of golf, especially getting here today and seeing that the breeze was up, it was going to be difficult for anyone to really put together a low score, especially on that front nine,” said McIlroy, who was even par through the front nine.
“So, I just wanted to keep my ball in play and not really make any mistakes and try and pick off some birdies when I could on the par 5s and stuck to my game plan very well. Made good, committed, aggressive swings to where I wanted to hit it.”
The victory is expected to take McIlroy to 11.66 points on top of the world rankings, and would extend his lead over second-placed Henrik Stenson by almost four average points.
Noren was absolutely thrilled with his performance, which comes at the back of a ninth place finish in Doha last week.
“I started well but didn’t really play that well around nine. And then I got a birdie on 10, which felt nice. A little bit slower after that but then really got it going. So it was just a lovely day, lovely finish and lovely start,” said Noren, who closed with three birdies in his last four holes.
“It was an amazing day, amazing week. I missed it so much, this feeling of some pulse and the nervousness.”
The European Tour next heads to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur next week.