Down two strokes with eight holes to play, China’s Haotong Li hit the gas to swipe the Omega Desert Dubai Classic title away from Rory McIlroy on Sunday.
McIlroy had gone from one stroke down to two up in the first 10 holes, but bogeyed #11 and #16 to open the door for Li.
Li matched McIlroy with birdies on 17 and 18 to hold off the four-time Major winner who has played marvelously since his return from injury two weeks ago. Li shot a final-round 69 to set a tournament record at 23-under. He won for the second time in his short career on the European Tour.
“It’s incredible, I’m so happy,” Li said. “Over the last four holes I hit some of the best shots of my life. I just didn’t realise I could make that putt on 15. That was huge. I think that was the turning point. And especially on 18, didn’t realise I would make that one, either. I believe I think my game is in good position now, and especially after this week, it gives me a lot of confidence back, especially last week, missed the cut. So never been in this position again. Just want to be myself and play some decent golf in the future.”
In his first two tournaments back after a long layoff, McIlroy has finished third and second against major-league competition.