McIlroy mounts brilliant comeback to make Dubai history
At the halfway stage of the season’s opening Rolex Series event, Rory McIlroy found himself ten shots adrift of the halfway lead. Victory looked improbable, at best.
Yet, the hunger to succeed still burns bright for the Northern Irishman, who won his first professional title at the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009.
After a bogey-free 63 on Saturday saw him surge through the field to sit two adrift of tournament debutant Cameron Young, a record-breaking fourth title at the longest-running event in the Middle East was in sight.
While his third-round display was full of fireworks, McIlroy showed his composure on a challenging final day when low scores were hard to come by for the leading challengers.
After surging three ahead at the turn and then four clear through 12 holes, McIlroy recovered from a bogey at the par-five 13th to par his way in and card a closing 70 to claim a one-shot victory over Adrian Meronk.
In doing so, the reigning European Number One climbs to the top of the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex and the International Swing, following his runner-up finish at last week’s Dubai Invitational.
McIlroy's parents join in celebrations
After lifting the huge Dallah Trophy once again, McIlroy celebrated on the final green with his mother and father, Rosie and Gerry.
The scenes brought back memories of when he first won the title at Emirates Golf Club as a teenager 15 years ago.
Meronk’s proud week in Dubai
Days after being announced as the 2023 Seve Ballesteros Award winner on the DP World Tour, Adrian Meronk made a strong challenge in his bid for a first Rolex Series title.
The Pole earned 38% of votes cast by his peers, with McIlroy taking second place and it was again those two that were in competition over the Majlis Course over the closing stages on Sunday.
After a season in which he won three times and finished a career-high fourth on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex, Meronk almost made the ideal start to 2024 by winning his fifth DP World Tour title.
Speaking earlier in the week about winning the Player of the Year Award, Meronk said: "It feels amazing. I'm shocked to be honest, I didn't expect that.
“You got me by surprise but seeing my name next to all of these players, it's unbelievable. I'm very grateful for this award. It means a lot to me that other players appreciate my season last year.”
Best Rolex Series finish 🙌— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) January 22, 2024
The same week as winning the 2023 Seve Ballesteros Award, a second place finish was @AdrianMeronk's best Rolex Series finish.#DubaiDesertClassic | #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/yxYdpAtPg1
Talent Thorbjornsen impresses
While both McIlroy and Meronk are established figures, one player who seems destined to pave his way to a successful career is Michael Thorbjornsen.
After finishing the fall college golf season top of the PGA TOUR University standings last year, the American received an exemption into the field for the 35th edition of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Ludvig Åberg benefited from that same exemption last year and everyone knows what he has since gone on to achieve.
While Thorbjornsen’s rise to stardom might not prove to be so stratospheric, the 22-year-old’s talent is undeniable.
For the second year in a row, the American finished as the leading amateur, recording an eight under par total over the four days to finish in a share of 11th in his first tournament since August.
Ryder Cup skipper ‘sorry’ after adding to ace tally
Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald made the sixth hole-in-one of the season and second of his DP World Tour career when he holed an eight iron from 183 yards on the fourth during the second round.
Afterwards, he acknowledged many of his peers might not want to know just how many he has achieved during his career. “I've had three in tournaments and I think that was number 19 in total.
“So I've been pretty fortunate with the holes-in-one. Sorry for anyone out there who has never had one, I've obviously taken them."
Wellbeing at the forefront of attention
Aligning with the DP World Tour’s focus on improving all Tour players’ mental and physical health, the Hero Dubai Desert Classic saw the introduction of a Mental Fitness and Recovery Zone.
The new area was available to all players before and during the tournament, with access to services and consultations with the aim of sustaining peak performance levels.
Introduced for the first time as part of the 2024 Race to Dubai, and with the subject of mental wellbeing an increasingly important topic in society, the response from players was positive.
Ahead of the tournament, DP World Tour winner Yannik Paul, broadcaster and former player Nick Dougherty and ex-England rugby captain Dylan Hartley teamed up to discuss the struggles they have faced in their careers.
Shot of the week?
Everyone loves seeing a driver off the deck. Well, they don’t come much better than this from Tommy Fleetwood in setting up eagle at the par five 13th in Friday’s second round.
But where does it rank among your shots of the week? We've compiled five of our favourites below.