Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Haotong Li hails special win over Rory McIlroy at Dubai Desert Classic

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World number 60 Li Haotong held off four-time major victor Rory McIlroy to win the Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy finished on 22 under a shot behind the victor in a record-breaking battling final round.

The win moves him alongside countryman Ashun Wu as Chinas most prominent winners on the European Tour and he becomes the first Chinese player to break into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

But a player of Rory's pedigree ought to have seen this one through to the end rather than come up a shot shy. I gained a lot of experience from him. He never really got going previous year because of a rib injury, although he had two second place finishes in the BMW SA Open and British Masters. Both then birdied the third and seventh holes to make the turn at 21 under par, way ahead of the field.

Englands Tyrrell Hatton produced a closing 66 to finish at 20 under, a shot clear of Frenchman Alexander Levy and three ahead of countryman Chris Paisley. The situation remained the same after McIlroy made a bogey from the bunker on the par-3 11th, followed by a Li bogey on the 12th.

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Yet the four-time major champion had led by two with eight holes to play, only to lose momentum courtesy of a bogey on the 11th and a three-putt par on the 13th.

"This is incredible. I just didn't think I could make that putt on 15".

"I think that (the 15th) was the turning point".

"I just didn't realise I could make that putt on 15".

McIlroy remains winless since August 2016 when he won the Tour Championship.

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"I mean, birdieing 10, going two ahead there with Li making bogey, I thought I was in the driver's seat and just a bogey out of nowhere on 11, I just a bad 9-iron there".

"But I tried until the very end".

At the par five 10th, two majestic shots set up an easy two-putt birdie to Li's untidy bogey six.

The world No 60 ended the week on 23 under and broke the tournament's 72-hole scoring record, as McIlroy let a two-shot advantage slip on the back nine to fall just short.

"Being in the positions I've been in and having two close calls the first couple of weeks of the year, it's a little hard".

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For Bangladesh , Pinak Ghosh made 43 but no other batsmen even managed to cross 18 as the chase kept struggling for momentum. India defeated another three-time Under 19 World Cup victor Australia by 100 runs in their first match of the tournament.

He'll be bitterly disappointed about not seeing the competition out after leading by two shots at the halfway mark.

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