Sunday, 28 January 2018
Day 4 Highlights - 2018 Omega Dubai Desert Classic

Li Haotong produced a late burst of scoring to hold off the challenge of Rory McIlroy and win his second European Tour title after a thrilling final-day battle at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

The Chinese entered the final day a shot clear of McIlroy but trailed by two after ten holes as the four-time Major winner looked on track for a third victory at Emirates Golf Club.

Li then birdied four of his last six holes to sign for a closing 69 and get to a record low event total of 23 under par, beating the Northern Irishman by a single stroke.

His stunning finish under incredible pressure further cemented his reputation as one of the European Tour's great clutch performers, following on from a closing 63 at last season's Open Championship and a fourth-round 64 to win on home soil at the 2016 Volvo China Open.

"Especially the first few holes, I was quite nervous," said Li. "The first hole  I made bogey and got to come back really quick, which was good.

"I think most of the time, only two or one behind, so I just want to keep pulling myself in a position and just don't go too far away.

"The last four holes was some of the best shots in my life so far. Happy to see I can hold a trophy here.

"I'm looking forward to my first Masters."

The win moves him alongside countryman Ashun Wu as China's 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.

England's 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 leading duo both struggled on the first, with McIlroy doing well to save par from a nasty lie off the tee and Li finding sand twice to drop into a share of the lead.

The last four holes was some of the best shots in my life so far. Happy to see I can hold a trophy here - Li Haotong

They both then took advantage of the par five third to share a four-shot cushion but Levy made sure he could still have a say with a stunning approach to the sixth and a monster putt on the seventh to halve the gap.

It was unclear whether McIlroy and Li were aware of that move but they both reacted on the par three, Li holing from the front of the green and McIlroy putting his tee-shot to eight feet for a pair of birdies and a three-shot lead.

Hatton had birdied the second and third and when he hit a beautiful approach into the ninth to turn in 32, his hopes were still just about alive.

The 26 year old made the most of the par five tenth and 13th to get right in the hunt but the real drama on the tenth came in the leading group as McIlroy made a routine birdie but Li found a bush off the tee and duffed a bunker shot to result in a two-shot swing.

McIlroy then found sand off the tee on the 11th for a first bogey of the day and when Hatton birdied the 14th, he was just a shot off the lead.

Li dropped a shot to fall further back but he took advantage of the 13th and with McIlroy missing an eight-foot birdie putt, he too was just one behind.

Hatton parred his way home - missing a short putt on the 17th and finding the water on the last - to post the target at 20 under.

Li went over the back of the 15th off the tee but holed a 25-footer from the fringe to share the lead and when McIlroy went a long way right off the 16th tee and could only hack out across the fairway, the 22 year old led on his own.

A stunning McIlroy chip on the 17th put the pressure on Li but he made a birdie of his own before both men also birdied the last.

Levy carded a 70 with Paisley signing for a 69, while Scot Richie Ramsay produced the lowest score of the day with a 64 to sit in a group of 13 players at 16 under that also included European Number One Tommy Fleetwood.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LI, HaotongCHN18-23
2MCILROY, RoryNIR18-22
3HATTON, TyrrellENG18-20
4LEVY, AlexanderFRA18-19
5PAISLEY, ChrisENG18-17
T6RAMSAY, RichieSCO18-16

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