McIlroy ends Reed run with final hole dagger in Dubai

John Craven

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

John Craven

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Rory McIlroy claimed a career first season-opening victory courtesy of a brilliant final hole birdie to edge out Patrick Reed by a single stroke at the Dubai Desert Classic on Monday.

After the American set the clubhouse target at 18-under par after signing for a superb seven-under 65, McIlroy played the 72nd hole needing birdie and a bit of luck that duly arrived as his drive stopped inches short of the water hazard to the right of 18.

Opting to lay-up to the final green, McIlroy entrusted his vastly improved wedge-play to get the job done and soon delivered, sending his third shot approach from 92 yards over the flag before sinking a downhill left to right putt from 14-feet for a richly deserved first ever Rolex Series event win.

“It means a lot,” said McIlroy who carded a four-under final round 68 for a 19-under winning tally and the $1.4m first prize cheque.

“It’s actually funny, Harry [Diamond-caddie] said that ‘finally we get a gold bib!’

“Obviously haven’t won one of these big ones before so yeah, like it was a battle all day. Honestly, it’s been a battle all week. I really feel like I haven’t had my best all week but I just managed my game so well. And played really smart.”

Never was McIlroy’s course management more evident than on that 72nd hole when faced with a decision to go for the green in two. Having found water the previous day and taking bogey, and indeed finding water the previous year when chasing Viktor Hovland in vain, McIlroy had a yardage of 196 to the pin, definitely reachable, albeit from an unappetising lie on the edge of the hazard that brought big variables into play.

“Honestly, I feel like I got lucky that my ball didn’t go in the water off the tee shot,” McIlroy said.

“It’s such an awkward tee shot for me – driver’s too much and three wood’s not quite enough. So trying to hit a sort of easy driver and it came out really hot.

“I was lucky for it not to go in the water. But I really only had one choice, I just I needed to lay up and try to get it up and down that way.

“You know, I said yesterday with the two balls in the water on Sunday last year and then yesterday, you know, fool me once shame on me, fool me twice and I wasn’t gonna get fooled for the third time.

“So yeah, it was nice to be able to, you know, play the percentages and make it pay off.”

Given the story of the week revolved around McIlroy and Patrick Reed following the Tee-Gate saga of Tuesday, tournament organisers could hardly have written a better script as the chase for the title became a two horse race between the pair.

With Reed playing in the group ahead, McIlroy was able to stalk his every move on Monday, making victory all the sweeter having managed his emotions down the stretch, of which there were many.

“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,” McIlroy said.

“And I just had to really concentrate on focusing on myself. Forget who was up there on the leaderboard.

“Like, I’m going to enjoy this. It’s probably sweeter than it should be or needs to be. But I feel like I’ve still got some stuff to work on and as I said, it’s a great start to the year and a really good foundation to work from.”

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One response to “McIlroy ends Reed run with final hole dagger in Dubai”

  1. Scott Tasker avatar
    Scott Tasker

    The best man won. Reed doesn’t do the sport of golf any favours. WELL DONE RORY..

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