Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 31st January 2023: It was a day to remember for Rory McIlroy with the World Number One holding his nerve on the 18th hole to win a record-equalling third Hero Dubai Desert Classic title on a dramatic final day at Emirates Golf Club.
The Northern Irishman, who had began the day three shots ahead, won by a single stroke thanks to a 20-footer winning birdie to finish on 19 under and ultimately deny runner-up Patrick Reed who had drawn level after birdieing on the last.
The victory means McIlroy becomes a three-time winner of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic following his 2009 and 2015 triumphs and joins South African legend Ernie Els, who won in 1994, 2002 and 2005.
A jubilant McIlroy said: “To win means a lot. It was a battle all day and throughout the week and I feel like I haven't had my best all week but I just managed my game so well and played really smart. I definitely feel like there's tons of room for improvement but it's a great start to the year.
“I'm going to enjoy this. This is probably sweeter than it should be or needs to be but I feel like I've still got some stuff to work on. As I said it's a great start to the year and a really good foundation to work from (for the rest of the year).”
He added: “I think mentally today was probably one of the toughest rounds I've ever had to play because it would be really easy to let your emotions get in the way and I just had to really concentrate on focusing on myself. I feel like I showed a lot of mental strength out there today.”
Thousands of spectators flocked to the Emirates Golf Club to watch Monday’s action and they were not disappointed with McIlroy and Reed both producing some impressive shots throughout the day.
For McIlroy, he had a par score in the first eight before making back-to-back birdies on the 9th and 10th holes. He made another on the 13th but a bogey on the 15th provided an opportunity for resurgent Reed to come back. However, the Northern Irishman delivered when it mattered to birdie his final two holes to claim a stunning triumph.
For Reed, who started the round four behind McIlroy pushed the World Number One all the way. He made a strong start with three birdies in the first six holes. An eagle on the 10th followed by a birdie continued his momentum and later took the outright lead after his fifth birdie of the day on the 13th hole. He dropped a shot on the 16th and had to settle for second place despite another birdie on the last.
McIlroy was awarded the Dallah Trophy during the prize-giving ceremony which included the presence of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports, and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group.
He was joined by His Excellency Mohammed Al Shaibani, Managing Director of the sovereign wealth fund, the Investment Corporation of Dubai and Chairman of Kerzner International, HE Sheikh Fahim Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman, Emirates Golf Federation and HE Hesham Al Qassim, CEO, Wasl Asset Management Group.
Also at the ceremony were: HE Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, Dr Pawan Munjal, Chairman & CEO Hero MotoCorp, Abdulnasser Bin Kalban – CEO, Emirates Global Aluminium, Shayne Nelson, CEO, Emirates NBD, Abdulla Bin Damithan, CEO & Managing Director DP World UAE and JAFZA, Tom Phillips, Head of Middle East for the DP World Tour and Mike Stewart, Tournament Director of DP World Tour.
Meanwhile, Lucas Herbert of Australia finished third after shooting 66 while American Michael Thorbjornsen, who had shared the lead in Round Two, finished as the top amateur in T20 with nine under.
The tournament also attracted thousands of spectators of different ages who were not short of options for entertainment – from the activities at Tournament Town which included sustainability-focused workshops to live music performances.