Haotong Li makes history with Omega Dubai Desert Classic victory


Haotong Li outlasted Rory McIlroy to become with first Chinese male golfer to make it inside the World's top 50 with a record-winning Omega Dubai Desert Classic victory.  

With three birdies in his final three holes, Haotong Li achieved the tournament's lowest ever total of 23-under-par, defeating playing partner Rory McIlroy by a single shot. 

Li's second European Tour win is projected to move him to World No. 32, which will be the first time a male golfer from China has made it inside the World's top 50. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy will move back to World No.8. 

The 22-year-old got off to a nervy start, letting his one-shot overnight lead slip with a bogey on the first hole before both Li and McIlroy made birdies on the third and seventh holes to put themselves to 21-under-par at the turn.  

A two shot swing ensued on the 10th as McIlroy saw in his third birdie of the day as Li dropped back to 19-under, but the Northern Irishman handed one shot back immediately on the 11th.  

Another mistake came for Li on the 12th, before he then birdied four of his last six holes to sign for a closing 69 and get to a record low event total of 23 under par, beating the Northern Irishman by a single stroke.

Especially the first few holes, I was quite nervous," said Li. "The first hole I made bogey and got to come back really quick, which was good. I think most of the time, only two or one behind, so I just want to keep pulling myself in a position and just don't go too far away."

"The last four holes was some of the best shots in my life so far. Happy to see I can hold a trophy here. I'm looking forward to my first Masters."

McIlroy was left to rue his chances, with his bogey at 11 seemingly coming out of nowhere, and another at 16 due to a wayward drive dropping him back behind Li. However, given that his second place finish follows on from his tied-third spot at last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship it's a very optimistic from the four time major champion, particularly since he is 44-under-par for his last eight rounds. 

"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 there - and the three-putt on 13."

"Those were the two key holes of the tournament, really, even though there was a bad tee shot on 16. But I tried until the very end and made two good birdies.

"I made him win it in the end, which was 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."

"If someone had told me at the start of the year you'd finish third and second your first two events, I'd take that," McIlroy added.

Both Alex Levy and Tyrrell Hatton made a move on the leaders on the back nine, but were unable to pull close enough - Hatton ending his chances by finding the water on the par-five 18th hole.

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. 

WITB: Haotong Li 

Driver: TaylorMade M2 2017 (9.5-Degree, MRC Tensei Blue)

Fairway: Callaway Rogue 

Hybrid: Callaway Epic

Irons: TaylorMade P750 4-9 (Nippon Modus 3 120X)

Wedges: Milled Grind 48-degree, 54-degree, 58-degree (Nippon Modus 3 120X)

Putter: Bettinardi Custom SS3 Tour Mallet

Ball: Titleist Pro V1