Li Haotong wins Dubai Desert Classic

The Chinese star held off Rory McIlroy by a single shot at the Emirates GC

Li Haotong wins Dubai Desert Classic
Li Haotong wins Dubai Desert Classic
(Image credit: Fergus Bisset)

Li Haotong of China birdied four of his last six holes at the Emirates GC to hold off Rory McIlroy and win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Li Haotong fired a final round of 69 at the Emirates Golf club to stay one stroke ahead of Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and claim his second European Tour victory in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Li began the final day a shot ahead of four-time Major champion McIlroy but the Northern Irishman found himself level at the top of the board after Li dropped a shot at the opening hole on Sunday.

McIlroy and Li did move clear though and, for much of the day, the competition was a two-horse race. But both Alexander Levy of France and Tyrrell Hatton from England looked to get in on the act as the round progressed and both McIlroy and Li stumbled.

In the end though, it came down to the top two players – McIlroy and Li. The Chinese golfer birdied the 13th, 15th, 17th and 18th holes to put himself in pole position and to, eventually, finish a shot in front of Rory McIlroy.

3 Talking points from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic

1 – This was a second European Tour title for Li. He also tasted victory in the 2016 Volvo China Open. Li should move up into the top-50 on the Official World Golf Ranking and will play at The Masters. The Chinese golfer's winning total of 23-under-par was a tournament record. "The last four holes was some of the best shots in my life so far. Happy to see I can hold a trophy here,” he said. "I'm looking forward to my first Masters."

2 – Rory couldn’t quite find the form he had shown on days one and two through the weekend. He opened with rounds of 65 and 64 at the Emirates GC but was only able to follow up with a 68 and a 69 over the last two days. McIlory was disappointed not to secure the win having been in a position to do so.

"From being two ahead standing on the 11th tee to being level going into 16, I just don't know," he said.

Victory in this tournament could be a good omen for China’s Li. The winner of this event in each of the last two seasons (Danny Willett and Sergio Garica) went on to win The Masters. Li will be hoping that trend continues this time around.

3 – No fewer than 13 players tied for fifth place at the end of the week. Among them were Tommy Fleetwood, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson.

Omega Dubai Desert Classic Emirates GC, Dubai, United Arab Emirates Jan 25-28 Purse: €2,414,000 Par: 72

1 Li Haotong (Chn) 66 66 64 69 265 €403,388 2 Rory McIlroy (NIR) 65 64 68 69 266 €268,923 3 Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 64 72 66 66 268 €151,513 4 Alexander Levy (Fra) 67 67 65 70 269 €121,017 5 Chris Paisley (Eng) 65 69 68 69 271 €102,622 T6 Byeong Hun An (Kor) 72 67 65 68 272 €47,401 T6 Rafa Cabrera Bello (Esp) 69 69 64 70 272 €47,401 T6 Alexander Bjork (Swe) 65 68 70 69 272 €47,401 T6 Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 69 69 66 68 272 €47,401 T6 Dylan Frittelli (RSA) 69 67 66 70 272 €47,401 T6 Chris Hanson (Eng) 67 70 70 65 272 €47,401 T6 David Lipsky (USA) 69 66 67 70 272 €47,401 T6 Ian Poulter (Eng) 68 70 65 69 272 €47,401 T6 Richie Ramsay (Sco) 70 69 69 64 272 €47,401 T6 Jason Srivener (Aus) 70 68 68 66 272 €47,401 T6 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 64 70 68 272 €47,401 T6 Andy Sullivan (Eng) 67 70 63 72 272 €47,401 T6 Jeunghun Wang (Kor) 69 66 67 70 272 €47,401

Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?