Haotong Li claims narrow win over Rory McIlroy at Dubai Desert Classic
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 28/01/18 11:44pm
Haotong Li held off a final-round challenge from Rory McIlroy to claim a record-breaking victory at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Li birdied four of his final six holes to post a three-under 69 and finish one ahead of McIlroy at Emirates Golf Club, securing the Chinese star a second European Tour title.
The world No 60 ended the week on 23 under and broke the tournament's 72-hole scoring record, as McIlroy let a two-shot advantage slip on the back nine to fall just short.
Hatton fired a six-under 66 to finish three strokes back in third spot, with Alexander Levy a further shot adrift in fourth following a final-round 70.
Beginning the day with a one-shot lead, Li lost his advantage by finding the sand twice on his way to an opening-hole bogey, as McIlroy recovered from a stray tee shot to save par.
The pair exchanged birdies at the third and seventh, before McIlroy narrowly avoided finding the water on his way to saving par at the ninth and keeping the contest all-square at the turn.
Li needed to take a penalty drop after finding a bush off the 10th tee and then duffed a chip from a bunker on his way to a birdie-six, as McIlroy posted a two-putt birdie to move two ahead.
McIlroy saw his gap cut to one after failing to get up-and-down from the bunker at the next, with Hatton closing in on the leaders by birdieing six of his first 14 holes.
Li bounced back from a bogey-five at the 12th by birdieing the par-five next, where McIlroy carded a three-putt par after finding the green in two, before moving back into a share of the lead by holing a putt from the fringe at the 15th.
A stray tee shot at the 16th led to a bogey for McIlroy and moved Li ahead with a two-putt par, as Hatton recovered from finding water at the par-five last to save par and set the clubhouse target at 20 under.
Li rolled in a six-foot birdie at the 17th to match McIlroy's kick-in gain and keep his one-shot cushion at the last, where he found rough off the tee and elected to lay up.
McIlroy found the par-five green in two and posted a two-putt par to close a three-under 69, as Li rolled in a 10-foot birdie of his own to secure the biggest win of his career to date.
Chris Paisley carded a three-under 69 to grab fifth spot, with Tommy Fleetwood, Andy Sullivan and Ian Poulter among the large group to share sixth on 16 under.