Rory McIlroy birdies final hole to win in Dubai and avoid playoff with Patrick Reed
Rory McIlroy made a 14-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and avoid a playoff with nemesis Patrick Reed.
The two men battled for the lead throughout the back nine in the weather-delayed Monday finish at the Emirates Golf Club. Reed tied McIlroy at the top with a birdie on the par-5 18th and McIlroy – playing one group behind – matched him to finish at 19 under, one clear. McIlroy shot 68 in the finale, to Reed’s 65.
McIlroy began the final round with a three-shot lead (four over Reed) and had three birdies to no bogeys over his first 13 holes.
Reed, however, birdied three of his first six holes, added an eagle at the par-5 10th and made two more birdies at Nos. 11 and 13.
Reed twice led on the back nine. First, when he birdied the 13th, before McIlroy did the same to match him at 18 under. The second time occurred when McIlroy bogeyed the par-3 15th to drop to minus-17, but Reed quickly responded with a bogey of his own at the 16th – to some noticeable applause from the gallery.
Knotted with three holes of regulation remaining, Reed was unable to capitalize at the 343-yard, par-4 17th. He blew his drive right, into the desert sand and then ran his second shot through the green. The former Masters champ managed to get up and down for par, converting a 6-footer for the save.
McIlroy, meanwhile, hit his tee shot just shy of the putting surface at No. 17. Using a putter, he lagged from 81 feet to 4 feet and converted the birdie to regain the top spot with one hole to play.
As McIlroy waited on the tee box to play the par-5 18th, Reed hit his second from 231 yards to the back of the green, 35 feet from the pin. McIlroy responded by using driver off the tee, but it proved too much. His ball ran through the fairway and into the thick rough guarding the water, feet shy of the hazard.
Reed two-putted for birdie to tie McIlroy and enter the clubhouse at 18 under par. McIlroy then laid up with his second shot, avoiding what happened a year ago when he hit his second into the water on No. 18 in losing by a shot.
This time, he would have to make birdie from 93 yards to win.
McIlroy placed his third shot to 14 feet and had that for the outright win. He made it and calmly raised his right arm with a fist.
It’s McIlroy third win in this event, dating back to his first professional victory in 2009.