Northern Ireland teenager Rory McIlroy held his nerve to win a first professional title at the Dubai Desert Classic by one stroke from Englishman Justin Rose.
The 19 year old carded a final round two under par 70 to finish at 19 under and so seal a wire to wire victory, as Rose fell just short after a five under par round of 67 at Emirates Golf Club.
McIlroy had led by six strokes with six holes left to play after reeling off four straight birdies from the ninth, but three bogeys in three holes saw Rose move to within one of his playing partner standing on the final tee.
McIlroy admitted that the pressure had made it difficult, saying: “You see guys coming down the stretch with a four or five shot lead, and you think it’s easy – but it’s not. You still have to play the shots, and you still have to hole the putts.
“I got myself into a great position in the middle of the back nine, but then let a few shots slip and Justin birdied a couple as well, so I had to fight back. It was nice to just hold it together on the last and get a great up and down for the victory.”
Former Harry Vardon Trophy winner Rose had a chance to force at least a play-off with a 15 foot birdie birdie putt on the last green, but missed to enable McIlroy to roll home a four foot par putt for victory.
Rose said: “I’m obviously pleased for Rory, first and foremost, and I knew the situation coming in. The wind really picked up, and it’s hard enough to close out your first win anyway. So I knew I just had to stick around.
“I really wasn’t trying to focus on the tournament, I was just focusing on what I was trying to do. In the end it wasn’t enough, but I’m still happy.”
The win elevates McIlroy to 16th in the Official World Golf Ranking, and makes him the seventh youngest winner in The European Tour’s history.
McIlroy also climbs to second in The Race to Dubai, with the last player to win a European Tour event at a younger age – Spain’s Sergio Garcia – still leading the way.
Dubai-based Swede Henrik Stenson finished third on 17 under par, with his compatriot Robert Karlsson, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and England’s Paul Casey a further shot adrift in a tie for fifth.
McIlroy said: “To hold off a field like this, as well – the likes of Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Colin Montgomerie – makes my win all the more satisfying.”
Click here to listen to Nick Dye's interview with Rory McIlroy.
Click here to listen to highlights from Rory McIlroy's press conference.