Reports For Golf Global

Rory grabs record 4th win at Hero Dubai Desert Classic Sharma registers best finish at 16th

Rory McIlroy (70) stood rock steady over the final nine as his main rivals Adrian Meronk (71) and Cameron Young (74) rose and fell over the final round as the World No. 2 maintained his love affair with the Hero Dubai Desert Classic as he successfully defended the title and won it for a record fourth time eclipsing the previous best of three by Ernie Els.
A week after seeing his one-shot lead turn into a 1-shot loss on the 72nd hole, McIlroy played the steadiest of back nines and from being 10 behind after 36 holes, he was first past the line. In 18 holes from the start of the third day to the turn at the nine, McIlroy was bogey-free and 12-under, while Young and Meronk had their blips.

As McIlroy won at 14-under, Meronk was second at 13-under and Young finished a disappointing third at 12-under. If the first two days belonged to Young, the last day had McIlroy stamped all over.

Dr Pawan Munjal, Executive Chairman, handed iconic Dallah Trophy to McIlroy for the second year running in front of adoring crowds, who consider McIlroy as one of their own. He has been coming here for 18 years and has six wins in Dubai. His latest win also means he has never finished outside Top-10 at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic in his last 11 appearances.

India’s Shubhankar Sharma again played solidly on a course that had a challenging rough and penalised small errors. He shot 2-under 70 and like his earlier rounds, it could have been a little better. He finished with 72-71-70-70 for a 5-under total that gave him his best finish at T-16 in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic. His best in six previous starts was T-22 in 2021.

It was a good start to the season for Sharma, who had five birdies against three bogeys, two of which came late at the 15th and 16th holes. The win will fetch Sharma over a hundred points on the Race to Dubai Standings and over 100,000 Euros in earnings.

Describing the week and the start to the 2024 season, Sharma said, “I would say it is very positive and very gritty. I wasn’t feeling too well at the start of the week. So I had to be patient with the body and the game.
“I thought I managed myself and I know there wasn’t a very deep (low) round but this golf course isn’t the easiest – Rory did shoot nine under but he seemed to be playing a different golf course.

“This week I had four decent rounds of par or better. Every round could have been better by a couple of shots but that’s golfing for the first week. After knocking off the rust of December I’m quite happy with this week. Hopefully this will get better.”

The champion, McIlroy speaking after the finish, said, “Yeah, it’s really cool. You know, I didn’t really think about that during the course of the round. You know, it was a really tricky day. It was hard to get it close and make a ton of birdies.

“You know, the pivotal point for me came on the 8th and 9th hole. Making two threes there, that sort of set me up to try to control it on the way in.

“I made that one blunder on 13, and made bogey there but felt like I steadied the ship well over the last few holes, and yeah, 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 leader board made much of a run.”

When the final day’s action began, McIlroy was tied second with Meronk at 12-under, and the duo was one behind Young, who after two excellent rounds on the first two days had fought back superbly on the back nine of the third round to stay two ahead.

When McIlroy birdied the second soon after Meronk birdied the third and a little later Young dropped a bogey on fourth all three were tied at 13-under. Young’s second bogey dropped him to 12-under and he was playing catch-up thereafter, while Meronk dropped three shots with a double bogey on seventh and a bogey on eighth.

The only hope for Meronk or Young was if McIlroy made mistakes on the back nine. He did drop a shot on the back nine but played solid with pars on the rest. He may have lurched here or there but held on for pars all through to the 18th, where he produced a great drive almost to the middle of the fairway. He missed a birdie putt, but it didn’t matter. The Dallah Trophy was headed back to the McIlroy Trophy cabinet.

Once McIlroy landed back-to-back birdies on the eighth and the ninth, he reached 15-under and was all by himself. Not even when he dropped the shot on Par-5 13th, a hole he had birdied on the first three days, did he fall behind.

Asked if coming back from 10 shots on the last 36 was one his best comebacks, he said, “I thought the way the golf course was trending, I thought two 67s would really have a chance. You know, obviously the 63 yesterday put me in a great position.
But yeah, I thought on Friday night, I thought 10-under for the weekend, I would have a really good chance to win. I shot 11, and ended up winning by one. Thankfully I played the golf I needed to and it was just incredible to get my fourth win here at the Emirates.”

On the great start to the season, with a second place and a first place, he added, “Yeah, it’s a great start to the season. I started well last year with the win here. That was a little more dramatic on the last green compared to that there.”

By Golf XYZ 

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