Dubai Desert Classic: Rory McIlroy wins tournament for fourth time

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Rory McIlroy previously won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2023, 2015 and 2009

-14 R McIlroy (NI); -13 A Meronk (Pol); -12 C Young (US); -10 A Cockerill (Can), P Larrazabal (Spa), J Niemann (Chi)

Selected:-9 A Scott (Aus); -8 C Shinkwin (Eng); -6 T Fleetwood, T McKibbin (NI); -5 A Fitzpatrick (Eng); -4 R Ramsay (Sco); +4 L Donald (Eng)

Rory McIlroy defended his title at the Dubai Desert Classic, beating Poland’s Adrian Meronk by one shot.

The 34-year-old Northern Irishman made par at the last to card a two-under 70, finishing on 14 under to win the tournament for a record fourth time.

American Cameron Young, the overnight leader, was two shots back in third after a two-over 74.

“It’s really cool,” said McIlroy on surpassing the record of three wins he shared with South Africa’s Ernie Els.

“I didn’t really think about that during the course of the round, it was a really tricky day.

“It was one of those days where there wasn’t a tonne of fireworks because the course was playing so difficult, but I held on as best as I could and thankfully no-one around the top of the leaderboard made much of a run… incredible to get my fourth win here.”

McIlroy’s victory followed his second-placed finish in the Dubai Invitational the previous weekend.

The world number two, who was playing in only his second tournament since November, put himself into contention with a nine-under-par 63 in the third round, which moved him to 12 under for the tournament and within two shots of Young.

Three birdies on the front nine of his final round, and just one dropped shot on the 13th, proved enough for McIlroy to continue his winning run in a tournament that brought him his first professional victory back in 2009.

He is now looking to build towards this year’s majors, which start with the Masters in April.

“It’s a great start to the season,” added McIlroy, who can complete the “career slam” of all four majors with victory at Augusta.

“I started well last year with the win here, it’s a great platform to build from. I know I am playing good golf.

“There are still a couple of misses off the tee left, a couple of little things still to work on, but these weeks are great. Obviously great to get the competition and come out on top as well.”

Young’s challenge faltered with two early dropped shots, while three birdies on the back nine were cancelled out by three more bogeys for the 2022 Open runner-up.

McIlroy, meanwhile, made birdies at the second, eighth and ninth holes to reach the turn with a three-shot lead on 15 under.

Meronk, who started the day tied with McIlroy, picked up another birdie on the third to keep pace with the four-time major winner.

The 30-year-old Pole seemingly fell out of contention following a double bogey at the par-three seventh and a bogey at the ninth.

But, after making three birdies in the opening five holes of the back nine, coupled with McIlroy’s six at the par-five 13th, he returned to within one shot of the defending champion.

McIlroy scrambled pars on the 14th, 15th and 16th, while Meronk, playing in the penultimate group, bogeyed the par-four 16th before fighting back to birdie the last and set a clubhouse lead of 13 under.

But McIlroy parred his final two holes to close out victory.

Meanwhile, Tommy Fleetwood, who edged out McIlroy to win the Dubai Invitational, closed in 73 to finish tied for 14th on six under, alongside fellow Englishman Alex Fitzpatrick and Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin.

England’s Callum Shinkwin finished two shots ahead of that group in a tie for 11th.

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