Rory McIlroy drives to another title in Dubai

Dubai (AFP) - Rory McIlroy won a “really cool” record fourth Dubai Desert Classic title on Sunday by one shot after storming back from a 10-shot deficit going into the weekend at the Emirates Golf Club.

McIlroy made two massive birdie putts towards the end of the front nine – a 31-footer on the par-4 eighth, followed by a 16-footer on the ninth – to move to 15-under par and lead by three shots.

At the same time his playing partner and overnight leader American Cameron Young struggled and made the turn at two-over with two bogeys.

On the back nine, McIlroy made a bogey on the par-5 13th and could not add another birdie, but that was enough for a winning total of 14-under par 274.

Poland’s Adrian Meronk once again showed his massive talent, and a last-hole birdie gave him a solo second place at 13-under par.

World No 25 Young, searching for his first win on elite tours, finished third at 12-under par.

With his fourth title at the Emirates Golf Club, the world No2 McIlroy surpassed South Africa’s Ernie Els and became the most successful player in the 35-year history of the championship.

“It’s really cool,” said McIlroy, who recorded his first win as a professional in the tournament in 2009.

- ‘Steadied the ship’ -

Rory McIlroy celebrates with his parents

“I didn’t think about that (fourth win) during the round. It was a really tricky day. It was hard to get it close and make a ton of birdies.

“The pivotal point for me came on the eighth and ninth holes. Making two threes there, that sort of set me up to try to control it on the way in.

He said after “that one blunder on 13” he “steadied the ship well over the last few holes”.

“It was one of those days where there wasn’t a ton of fireworks just because the course was so difficult, but I held on as best as I could and thankfully, no one around the top of the leaderboard made much of a run.”

Chile’s LIV Golf star Joaquin Niemann made the most of his limited starts on the European tour, finishing tied fourth at 10-under alongside Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal and Canada’s Aaron Cockerill.

The 34-year-old Northern Irishman said the win will set him up perfectly for the Masters in April, the one major championship that has eluded him so far.

“I think so. Look, Augusta is still a long way away in golfing terms. A lot can change in the two-and-a-half months,” said McIlroy, who missed the cut at Augusta National in 2023.

“It’s always nice to get a win. It’s always nice to feel like you’re playing well going into it. I’ve always said that I’ll take execution over preparation every single time because you just have to execute the golf shots, especially there.

“Last year at Augusta, I learnt a lot about myself. I’ve told this story before about the first green on Friday, and Brooks (Koepka) was on the eighth green and I saw the big leaderboard, and I was already 10 behind at that point.

“I was 10 behind after two days this week and ended up winning the golf tournament. I feel like I’ve taken that learning already and put it into practise a little bit already.”

The DP World Tour moves next to the northern emirates of the UAE for the Ras Al Khaimah Classic.

McIlroy will play the AT&T Pebble Beach ProAm on the PGA Tour in the first week of February.