In the Dubai Desert Classic’s final round, Rory McIlroy defeated Patrick Reed following a tough struggle.
The world’s top player finished on 19 under par after making birdies on his final two holes to record a four-under 68 and win by one stroke.
McIlroy, a Northern Irishman, had a three-shot lead over the field after the first round, but Reed (65), who picked up six strokes in his opening 11 holes, eliminated that lead.
Following Reed’s birdie on hole 18 to tie the score, McIlroy retaliated with three more birdies before sealing the deal with a 20-footer.
In Dubai, prolonged rain forced play to extend into a fifth day. The DP World Tour’s finale, which took place on the Majlis course at the Emirates Golf Club, saw McIlroy hold off LIV Golf’s Reed for the first Monday finish in 35 years.
In reference to his competition with Reed, McIlroy told BBC Sport that it was “extremely challenging mentally.” “Because of who was in that position on the leaderboard, I had the impression that I could have allowed my feelings to interfere with what I was attempting to achieve.
“Just attempting to concentrate on myself required a lot of mental effort on my part.
“I’ll take pleasure in this. This is likely sweeter than it needs to be or should be.”
The continuing animosity, which erupted earlier in the week when McIlroy disregarded Reed on the driving range and the American retaliated by flinging a LIV Golf tee in his direction, was at its next escalation.
Then, McIlroy gave an explanation of his decision to turn down Reed’s effort at dialogue.
The 33-year-old, who has been summoned as a witness in Reed’s defamation action against the PGA Tour among others, said that “I was subpoenaed by his lawyer on Christmas Eve.”
Final standings for the Dubai Desert Classic
McIlroy on Reed: “He’s not living in reality.”
Fans wanted to see McIlroy and Reed partnered together at some time, and it set the tone for the rest of the week. Even if that did not occur, the drama on the last day did not let anybody down.
With three birdies in his first six holes, Reed, who was in the last group and started four strokes behind McIlroy, soon ate into that advantage as McIlroy struggled to make pars.
The Northern Irishman then made birdies on holes nine, ten, and thirteen to stay up with Reed, who made an eagle on hole five and added two more birdies on holes eleven and thirteen.
After 14 holes, they were tied on 18 under, and McIlroy blinked first. His opening shot of the round was lost when he missed the green on the short 15th hole and was unable to get up and down for par.
However, Reed was having issues up front following an errant drive on the par-four 16th hole. He used a sideways chip to get out of danger, but it took him three more shots to miss his opening attempt of the day.
Reed’s opportunity to make a birdie on the par-4 17th was lost due to another poor drive, while McIlroy gained ground by almost driving the green and hitting two putts from the front edge.
McIlroy, who had just just avoided water with his drive, was watching Reed’s birdie on the last hole as he contemplated whether to take on the lake protecting the front of the green.
McIlroy made the safer decision after keeping in mind that he had struck balls into the water on Sunday and throughout the championship round the previous year. He then made a strong wedge shot and, after making the birdie putt, let out a huge yell.
He remarked after winning his third Dubai Desert Classic championship, “I was in two minds, but given what happened yesterday and last year, I wanted to go wedge and give myself an opportunity.
Being able to play the odds and have them work in your favor was amazing. The year is off to a fantastic start.
Lucas Herbert of Australia finished the round with a six-under 66 to place third overall on 16 under.
With his third shot on the par-five last after laying up short of the lake with his second, Englishman Ian Poulter, who now competes on the LIV Golf circuit, had a decent chance to join Herbert at that point. This resulted in a shabby double-bogey finish and a final score of 13 under.
Henrik Stenson of Sweden shot the lowest round of the day, an eight-under 64, to get to 12 under after resigning as European Ryder Cup captain to join LIV Golf.
From February 6 to 10, legal hearings in London will decide whether 13 LIV players may continue competing on the DP World Tour located in Europe. More Info..