Rory McIlroy falls 1 shot short to Haotong Li at Dubai

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Rory McIlroy falls 1 shot short to Haotong Li at Dubai

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Rory McIlroy falls 1 shot short to Haotong Li at Dubai

Rory McIlroy couldn’t really have asked for a better return to competitive golf than his two weeks in the Middle East, but he left the region feeling at least one win got away.

The former world OWGR No. 1 arguably should have won his third Dubai Desert Classic, but had to settle for second place behind China’s Haotong Li. McIlroy finished a shot Li after the 22-year-old birdied four of his last six holes to finish at 23 under par.

McIlroy began the final round one shot adrift of Li but was two ahead after 10 holes. However, McIlroy bogeyed the 11th from a greenside bunker, and dropped another shot at the 16th hole after a bad drive to let Li back into the tournament. The four-time major winner birdied the last two hole, but Li’s birdie burst was too much for him. 

“Birdieing 10, going two ahead there with Li making bogey, I thought I was obviously in the driver’s seat,” McIlroy said. “Then just a bogey out of nowhere on 11 – just a bad nine iron – and the three putt on (par-5) 13, those were the two key holes of the tournament, really, even though there was a bad tee shot on 16.

“I tried until the very end. Made two good birdies. Made him win it in the end, which was, you know, all I could do. He played very well on the way in, birdieing three of the last four. I just wish I could get a couple of those holes back.”

McIlroy’s runner up came on top of third in Abu Dhabi the previous week to prove his game and his body have benefitted from a three-month winter break.

“If someone had of told me at the start of the year you’d finish third and second your first two events, I’d say, ‘yeah, I’d take that.’

“But being in the positions I’ve been in and having two close calls the first couple of weeks of the year, it’s a little difficult. The competitor in me is very disappointed right now. I wanted to win.”

So did Li, who earned his second European Tour victory following the 2016 Volvo China Open.

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