Justin Rose wins ugly in Turkey, returns to World No. 1

ANTALYA, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 04: Justin Rose of England poses with the Trophy after he wins the final round during Day Four of the Turkish Airlines Open at Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort on November 4, 2018 in Antalya, Turkey. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) Warren Little/Getty Images

Justin Rose wins ugly in Turkey, returns to World No. 1

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Justin Rose wins ugly in Turkey, returns to World No. 1

Few in the game will quibble with Justin Rose heading back to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking following his successful defense of the Turkish Airlines Open, even if he seemed to try his best to throw the title away.

Rose defeated China’s Li Haotong in a sudden-death playoff in which neither player should have been.

The 38-year-old Englishman looked to be cruising to the title with a two-shot lead with four holes to play. However, Li eagled the par-5 15th to draw level before Rose got back in front with a birdie at the 16th to reach 19-under.

Most experts would have bet their mortgages on Rose making regulation pars the last two holes. Perhaps the thought of reaching the top of the world order was on his mind, for Rose inexplicably bogeyed the last two holes to give his younger opponent a chance.

Thankfully for Rose, Li three-putted the 72nd hole when two putts would have given him his second win of the season following the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Rose was handed the tournament when the pair returned to the 18th in sudden death. The Chinese player had a 10-foot birdie putt to win. He charged his effort 4 feet past, then missed the return par putt to send Rose to World No. 1 for the second time this season.

It marked a milestone in the Englishman’s career: It was the first time Rose successfully defended a tournament.

“It’s really important to have defended a title,” Rose said. “It’s taken me a long time to do it. Maybe I haven’t won enough tournaments to give myself enough opportunities to defend, but this golf course obviously suits my eye. And when you do find a golf course that does suit your eyes, you feel like you should give yourself opportunities to win there. But to do it back-to-back is very special.

“It’s really nice to be back at World No. 1. That’s just something to be proud of. It certainly doesn’t make you one-under par on the first tee the next time you play, but it’s something to be proud of for sure.”

Rose began the day three shots adrift of Li but made up ground as Li faltered.

“There were moments out there where it looked like both of us weren’t holding our nerve very well,” Rose said. “It was a fun battle. Obviously, I got myself two ahead with a few to play. Haotong made a wonderful eagle at 15, and at 16 we were both in there tight, and I kind of got my nose in front again.

“It was disappointing for me to finish five, five. The five at 18 you can somewhat live with. The five at 17, I should have cleaned that hole up easier than I did. It ended up OK in the end.”

Li’s $780,000 check moved him to ninth on the European money list.

“A tough day for me honestly,” Li said. “It’s a pretty good round, especially against Rosey, and he’s such a nice guy. Hopefully next time I can play better. Hopefully I can have a better finish to the season.”

Rose goes to third on the European pecking order after winning $1,166,600. The money pales in comparison to going back to the top of the world ranking, though.

This win, his 11th in Europe, was Rose’s second of the season following the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour. It punctuated a run of six top-10s in his last six starts.

Rose’s first stint as World No. 1 lasted just a week. He’ll be hoping to spend a lot longer on top of the world second time around. Gwk

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