Viktor Hovland beats Richard Bland in Dubai Desert Classic play-off after late Rory McIlroy error
Hovland birdied the first extra hole to defeat Bland in a play-off after a dramatic final day in Dubai, where McIlroy missed out by a shot after finding water and making a costly bogey at the par-five 18th
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 30/01/22 4:11pm
Viktor Hovland defeated Richard Bland in a play-off to snatch a remarkable victory at the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic, as Rory McIlroy missed out after a costly finish to his final round.
Hovland overcame a six-stroke deficit on a thrilling final day at Emirates Golf Club, playing his last three holes in four under to close a round-of-the-day 66 to set the clubhouse target at 12 under.
Bland birdied his final two holes on his way to a four-under 68 to join the Norwegian at the top of the leaderboard, with McIlroy set to make it a three-way play-off until squandered a glorious chance to claim a third Dubai title.
McIlroy had the tournament in his hands over the closing holes but needed an incredible save at the par-four 17th to remain tied for the lead going into the final hole, where he found the water with his approach and made a closing bogey to end the week in third spot.
The two leaders returned to the par-five 18th for the play-off, where Bland was unable to get up and down from the left side of the green, as Hovland reached the putting surface in two and two-putted for a winning birdie.
Incredible Sunday in Dubai
McIlroy matched overnight leader Justin Harding's bogey at the first and missed birdie chances over the next two holes, with the Northern Irishman remaining two behind until a brilliant iron shot from the waste area set up a 20-foot birdie at the sixth.
The former world No 1 rolled in a 30-footer at the par-three next and to find himself tied for the lead alongside Harding and Adrian Meronk, who had followed back-to-back birdies from the second by picking up a shot at the eighth to make it a three-way tie for the top.
Meronk took advantage of a fortunate bounce off a wall to only bogey the ninth but dropped another shot at the par-five tenth, where McIlroy scrambled brilliantly to escape with just a bogey after having to take a penalty drop in the bushes.
A four-shot swing within the final group at the par-three next saw Harding rack up a triple-bogey after two poor shots from the greenside bunkers, as McIlroy holed from 25 feet to jump into a one-shot advantage.
McIlroy's closest challenge came from Bland, who surged into contention with three straight birdies around the turn, while Hovland bounced back from a close-range miss at the 15th to play his last three holes in four under.
Hovland drained a 35-footer at the 16th and holed from a similar distance at the par-four next for eagle after driving the par-four green, before a two-putt birdie at the last saw him join McIlroy - who rolled in from 12 feet at the par-five 13th - on 12 under.
McIlroy safely negotiated the next few holes and produced an incredible save at the par-four 17th, hacking out of bushes and then getting up and down to stay in a share of the lead, while Bland made it a three-way tie at the top after following a birdie at the 17th by rolling in a 25-footer at the last.
Bland and Hovland were waiting on the range as McIlroy elected to attack the final green in two, knowing a birdie would be enough for victory in regulation, only for the 32-year-old to fire his three-wood into the water.
McIlroy could've still salvaged a spot in the play-off by getting up and down from the drop zone, only for him to two-putt for a closing bogey to miss out on a first victory of the season.
English duo Tyrrell Hatton and Sam Horsfield finished tied-fourth alongside Erik van Rooyen, Harding and Meronk, with former Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington a further shot back in a share of ninth place.
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