Rolex Series

Rory McIlroy wins Hero Dubai Desert Classic to claim first Rolex Series title

Rory McIlroy won his first Rolex Series title with a third victory at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic after a dramatic final day at Emirates Golf Club.

The World Number One has a CV to rival the greats of the game, with four Major Championships, four Harry Vardon Trophies and three FedEx Cups to his name but he arrived in the UAE still missing a triumph in one of the DP World Tour's prestige events.

He put that right in fine fashion on a Monday finish over the Majlis Course, birdieing the 17th and 18th in a 68 to finish at 19 under, one clear of American Patrick Reed.

Reed's 65 made for a thrilling finish as the duo went toe-to-toe over the back nine but it was McIlroy who emerged the victor to move to second in the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex.

Australian Lucas Herbert - the 2020 winner of this event - finished third at 16 under, a shot clear of England's Callum Shinkwin and two ahead of Frenchman Julien Brun.

It is the first time McIlroy has won his first event of the year and takes his tally of DP World Tour wins to 15 at the scene of his first, which came 13 years and 363 days ago.

The Northern Irishman joins Ernie Els as a three-time winner at Emirates Golf Club and extends his remarkable run of form which saw him record nine top tens in ten events last season, with a worst finish of 12th en route to being crowned Europe's Number One.

Rounds of 66-70-65 had seen McIlroy enter the final day of a weather-affected tournament with a three-shot lead and while he was overtaken by Reed at one point, he holed a 14-footer on the last after laying up to make the perfect start to his season.

"It means a lot," said McIlroy. "It's actually funny, (caddie) Harry said to me, 'finally we get a gold bib'. Obviously I haven't won one of these big ones before.

"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.

"I feel like I showed a lot of mental strength out there today, something to really build on for the rest of the year.

"There's been a ton of positives this week but also been some things that I need to learn from and I need to try to improve on. 

"I'm going to enjoy this. This is probably sweeter than it should be or needs to be but I feel like I've still got some stuff to work on. It's a great start to the year and a really good foundation to work from."

Reed started the day four shots off the lead but crept towards the top of the leaderboard as McIlroy began his final round with eight pars.

The 32-year-old hit a smart approach into the second and then got up and down to take advantage of the par-five third before holing a bunker shot at the sixth.

McIlroy broke his run after a stunning second brought a birdie from seven feet at the ninth but ahead at the tenth, Reed was inches from an albatross and rolled home his eagle putt to share the lead.

The 2009 and 2015 champion hit back with two putts from 60 feet on the same hole but Reed put his tee shot to six feet on the 11th and then played a beautiful chip from the rough on the par-five 13th to edge ahead.

A two-putt birdie on the 13th put McIlroy back in a share but the 33-year-old missed the green at the 15th and failed to get up and down, handing the advantage back to Reed.

A ragged tee-shot on the 16th led to a Reed bogey and when McIlroy drove to the fringe at the 17th and got down in two, he was in control.

But there was drama to come as Reed made a two-putt birdie at the last and McIlroy almost found water off the tee, laying up and playing an excellent wedge shot to set up his big finish.

Herbert birdied the 17th and 18th to go with five other gains and a single bogey in a 66, while Shinkwin did the same in a 69 and Brun signed for a 68.

Belgian Thomas Pieters and England's Ian Poulter were at 13 under, one ahead of Swedish pair Marcus Kinhult and Henrik Stenson, England's Richard Bland, Spaniard Angel Hidalgo and American Johannes Veerman.

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