The Hero Dubai Desert Classic saw a thrilling final-round tussle play out as the tournament concluded on a Monday for the first time in its 34-year history. Here is everything you need to from the second Rolex Series event of the year.
McIlroy lands first Rolex Series win after thrilling final day
In his pre-tournament press conference, Rory McIlroy admitted he had “unfinished business” at this week’s event after a near-miss last year as he got his 2023 campaign under way. After the first two rounds were impacted by unusually heavy rainfall in the region, the World Number One in the Official World Golf Ranking hit the front on Sunday with a seven-under-par 65 to hold a three-shot advantage heading into the final round. But in an enthralling finish to the tournament, McIlroy was pushed all the way by Patrick Reed, who started the day four strokes off the lead. After beginning the day with eight pars, McIlroy was caught at the top of the leaderboard when Reed almost holed his second shot for an albatross at the par-five tenth. The four-time Major Champion was one behind after a bogey at the par-three 15th but a ragged tee-shot lead to a Reed bogey at the 16th and the duo were level again. With the pressure on, McIlroy finished birdie-birdie – holing a left-to-right swinging putt from around 15 feet after fortunately avoiding water off the tee – to move level with Ernie Els as a three-time winner of this event. The victory lifts the Northern Irishman to second in the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex and cements his standing at the summit of the men’s golf. “I've already had so many wonderful memories around this golf course and Dubai in general, so to create some more today, it's really cool. Dubai has been a big part of my career and my journey, and to put my name on this trophy for a third time, to join Ernie Els, is a pretty cool feeling.”
Former champion Herbert enjoys strong finish
McIlroy wasn’t the only former event winner to perform well as Lucas Herbert shot a closing six-under-par 66 to finish in solo third. The Australian, who claimed his first DP World Tour title with a play-off victory at the Emirates Golf Club in 2020, made 22 birdies across the week. The performance lifts the 27-year-old to 53rd on the world rankings, with a spot in the field for the Masters Tournament in April now in his sights.
Amateurs make big impression
There were three amateurs in the field at the Majlis Course, with two of them making their presence felt towards the top of the leaderboard during the five days of competition. After World Number One amateur Ludvig Aberg held a share of the lead after the first round, American Michael Thorbjornsen made his way to the summit after a second-round 64. While both were unable to mount a challenge for the title over the weekend, they underlined why many within the game envisage they will enjoy successful professional careers. Speaking after his second round, Thorbjornsen said: “I definitely feel like Ludvig and I push each other. In college we played a lot of golf recently together over the past year, and I'm happy to see he's doing well and I hope he's happy to see I'm doing well and we're pushing each other."
Fox wins Seve Ballesteros Award
On Friday, Ryan Fox was announced as the winner of the 2022 Seve Ballesteros Award. The New Zealander polled 50% of the votes cast by his fellow DP World Tour professionals, with the recognition coming after an outstanding season last year which saw him win the Ras al Khaimah Classic and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. The 36-year-old was presented with the trophy by one of Seve’s sons Javier and his daughter Carmen, who were present to watch a tournament their father won in 1992. "Last year I thought I had a chance but a few other guys played pretty well, Rory, Matt (Fitzpatrick), Jon Rahm, especially at the end of the year. So when Keith Pelley told me I was pretty shocked and obviously pretty chuffed as well. To have your peers vote for you makes it that extra bit special.” Well done, Ryan.
Deluge hits Dubai
Heavy rainfall on Wednesday and overnight into Thursday led to a six-hour delay to the start of the first round, with the course maintenance staff at Emirates Golf Club performing a great job to get the course playable - before further rain arrived on Friday. Reflecting on the strains the inclement weather brought over the first two days, Golf Course Superintendent Matthew Perry said: “When you work pretty hard to get the golf course into a pretty good condition and want to showcase it, for the rain to dampen what we wanted to achieve and present [meant] we wanted to get it back to the standard of a DP World Tour event and Rolex Series event.” Tommy Fleetwood was among the players to voice their praise for the efforts of the greenkeepers in challenging conditions.
To all the greens staff who helped get the golf course playable today after the overnight rain in Dubai, thank you!! @DubaiDCGolf #HeroDDC— Tommy Fleetwood (@TommyFleetwood1) January 26, 2023
Sustainability initiatives make 2023 event most eco-friendly edition
A series of environmental measures were implemented as part of the tournaments on-going efforts to protect the planet and promote sustainability. Among the initiatives introduced were high-quality filtered water dispenser systems, provided by Liquid of Life and Al Laith. The five dispenser systems installed around the Majlis Course were designed to reduce the use of an estimated 40,000 single use water bottles from players, caddies, officials and spectators across the event. To help reduce carbon emissions, visitors were also encouraged to travel by the Dubai Metro rather than by car, with limited paid on-site car parking at AED 50 per car. The fee will be used towards planting three mangrove trees locally, which during their lifetime will offset 2,000 miles of car travel emissions. Solar panels were also installed around the venue, helping power temporary event infrastructure.
McIlroy’s extraordinary hole-out eagle
On resuming his first round on Friday morning, McIlroy produced fireworks with a birdie-eagle-birdie finish. In the middle of that brilliant three-hole run, the four-time Major Champion holed his approach at the eighth from the desert. Shot of the week? It’s hard to argue against it.