Rory McIlroy cemented his name in the history books on Sunday, storming from six shots back to capture a record-breaking fourth Dubai Desert Classic title in thrilling fashion. The Northern Irishman overcame a calamitous second round to card a stunning final round 63, reeling in third round leader Cameron Young down the stretch to ultimately prevail by one stroke.
Poor Second Round Proves Minor Blip in Dominant Campaign
McIlroy entered the tournament at Emirates Golf Club as defending champion and the pre-tournament favorite. However, after opening with a solid 4-under 68 on Thursday, he crumbled to a 3-over 75 in round two that left him six shots adrift of Young’s halfway lead.
The setback marked an uncharacteristic stumble for a player widely tipped to continue the dominant form that saw him begin 2024 with two straight top-5 finishes on the DP World Tour.
“I don’t know what went wrong yesterday,” McIlroy conceded after his win. “I felt like I was playing pretty good. The margins in this game are just so fine.”
It would prove only a minor blip in an otherwise stellar weeks’ work from the World No.1.
|1. Rory McIlroy
|2. Cameron Young
|3. Callum Shinkwin
Spectacular Saturday Charge Sets Up Grandstand Finish
McIlroy’s fightback began in earnest on Saturday, when he tore up Emirates GC with a spectacular 9-under 63 to rocket into contention. Kickstarted by an eagle on the par-5 10th, his inward half featured six birdies and set the stage for a Sunday showdown with Young and co-leader Callum Shinkwin.
The 33-year-old carried that momentum into the final round, opening with three straight birdies to slash his deficit to just one shot as the leading pack bunched at the summit.
A front nine ding-dong battle culminated with Young edging back ahead, making the turn with a two-shot cushion after trading blows with McIlroy through seven holes.
The four-time Major champion kept Young firmly in his sights on the more difficult back nine, before striking the decisive blow at the par-5 last. With Young already safely in the clubhouse, McIlroy rolled in a nerveless 15-foot eagle putt to snatch victory by a single stroke.
“Obviously I’m ecstatic to win this golf tournament once again,” a jubilant McIlroy said afterwards.
“It means a lot…just so happy with how everything went this week.”
Historic Victory Caps Stellar Recent Dubai Desert Classic Record
In capturing an unprecedented fourth Dubai Desert Classic crown, McIlroy further cemented his status as the pre-eminent star of Emirates GC.
Sunday’s success represents his third Dubai triumph in five years, having also reigned supreme in 2018 and 2023. McIlroy also finished runner-up to Bryson DeChambeau in 2020 and now boasts nine top-5 finishes from 12 appearances at the event.
“Rory obviously played phenomenal golf to get it done,” said runner-up Young. “Hats off to him, he’s the best player in the world.”
Amidst the plaudits, McIlroy was quick to credit the Dubai fans that have backed him to eight European Tour wins.
“The support that I get here is incredible,” McIlroy said. “That really gives me a big lift when I come back.”
Few would bet against the popular superstar adding further Desert Classic silverware in years to come.
What Next For Resurgent McIlroy?
On the evidence of the past month, McIlroy looks primed to launch another assault on golf’s summit in 2024. Having risen back to World No. 1 with victory at the CJ Cup in October, he ended 2023 with three wins from his last six starts.
Carrying on where he left off, top-5 finishes at the Hero Cup and Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship preceded this historic Dubai triumph. With his iron play razor-sharp and putter warming up, McIlroy seemingly has all departments firing early doors this calendar year.
Attention now turns to cementing his return to the top in the Majors. Despite eight top-10 finishes since his last Major victory in 2014, McIlroy has endured his share of Sunday heartbreak on golf’s biggest stages in recent seasons.
With rivals Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, and Cameron Smith also hitting form, the Northern Irishman faces no shortage of competition. But after this demonstration of world-beating quality in Dubai, few would now bet against McIlroy finally ending that Major hoodoo in 2024.
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