Li Haotong outlasted Rory McIlroy in an epic duel to win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and move to second spot in the Race to Dubai Rankings.
The 22-year-old from China finished a stroke ahead of McIlroy to pick up 500,000 points and take his season tally to 523,650, catapulting him from 84th to second place behind reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood in the Rankings.
“Li’s stunning victory just goes to show the meteoric rise of Asian golf,” said Nick Tarratt, Director European Tour International, Dubai office. “We would be delighted to see him come back to Jumeirah Golf Estates in November to compete in the DP World Tour Championship for the third time.”
Although Li began the final day at the Emirates Golf Club with a one shot advantage over McIlroy, he trailed the Northern Irishman by two shots after dropping a shot on the par five tenth.
However a riveting back-and-forth battle down the final stretch ended with Li sinking a short birdie putt on the final hole to win by a shot over the four time Major winner and set a new tournament scoring record.
"Especially the first few holes, I was quite nervous," said Li, who won for the first time since claiming victory on home soil at the 2016 Volvo China Open.
"The first hole I made bogey and got to come back really quick, which was good. The last four holes were some of the best shots in my life. I’m happy to hold the trophy.”
Meanwhile, McIlroy’s impressive return to professional golf continued as his runner-up finish now takes him from ninth to third in the Race to Dubai with a season tally of 502,230 points.
Alexander Levy also made significant strides up the Rankings with a lone fourth place finish which takes him from 19th to ninth place in the Race to Dubai. The Frenchman now has 240,000 points for the season.
Another man who broke in to the top ten of the Race to Dubai was England’s Tyrrell Hatton. His third place finish at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic saw him pick up 187,800 points to move from 49th to tenth spot in the Rankings.
Korea’s Jeunghun Wang and Australia’s Jason Scrivener both finished tied for sixth in Dubai to pick up 58,753 points each. The result sees Wang move from 49th to 23rd place in the Race to Dubai while Scrivener is now in 24th spot after starting the week in 73rd.
The evergreen Miguel Ángel Jiménez also took strides up the Rankings by finishing tied for 19th in Dubai. He moves from 40th to 25th place in the Race to Dubai with a season tally of 87,600 points.
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay and Korea’s Byeong Hun An both moved from 100th place to 30th in the Race to Dubai after finishing tied for sixth to pick up 58,753 points each.
Chris Hanson also finished tied for sixth to leapfrog from 116th to 33rd place in the Race to Dubai Rankings.
However after also finishing tied for sixth, it’s defending Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood who remains at the head of the Rankings with 628,753 points, whilst Li is in second with a season-tally of 523,650 points and McIlroy sits in third spot on 502,230.