China’s emerging star Li Haotong beats McIlroy to Dubai title

Mainlander sets tournament record and is sure to become the first Chinese player to crack the world’s top 50 ranking

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 11:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 11:02pm

China’s Li Haotong secured the biggest title of his young career on Sunday, a blistering finish helping him see off the challenge of Rory McIlroy to win the US$3 million Dubai Desert Classic.

Li led by a stroke overnight but wobbled in his final round before a strong finish gave him a three-under-par 69 – secured with a birdie at the last – for a winning total of 265, 23 under par.

The 22-year-old’s score was a new tournament record and it allowed him to win by a shot from McIlroy, who also had a 69 to finish on 22-under, and becomes the first Asian winner of the event.

McIlroy had surged ahead just after the turn but a bogey on the par-4 16th hole proved crucial as he finished on 266.

It was 22-year-old Li’s second win on the European Tour following his triumph at the 2016 China Open, and he is sure of becoming the first Chinese player to crack into the top 50 of the world rankings on Monday. He is expected to rise to number 32.

Tyrrell Hatton of England moved to third place with a six-under-par 66 to finish on 268, but it could have been better if he had not hit his second shot into the water on the par-5 18th hole.

He was followed by France’s Alexander Levy in sole fourth place at 19-under-par 269.