McIlroy 1 shot behind chief Li after Dubai third spherical

McIlroy 1 shot behind chief Li after Dubai third spherical

McIlroy 1 shot behind chief Li after Dubai third spherical

Li, who won the 2016 China Open and finished third at last year's Open Championship, becomes the first Asian victor of the event and earned the biggest victory of his career.

As good as that was, however, it was not good enough.

The pair's struggles spread, McIlroy bogeying 11 and Li dropping another shot at the next hole, but the Chinese found a spectacular second wind to pull clear. The 22-year old, ranked No 60 in the world, matched McIlroy's closing 69 to maintain his overnight lead and claim the title. The final group in the final round then traded birdies on the final two holes.

Both players then birdied the last two holes as Li became the first Asian victor of the tournament. I just wish I could get a couple of those holes back.

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There was that birdie-birdie finish as well, in the gathering breeze and on baked greens that made life much more hard than for the first three days.

It appeared the pivotal moment until a desperately poor McIlroy bogey at the 11th - as he said, from out of nowhere.

He said his approach play did not generally help, either. His winning aggregate of 23 under par is a Desert Classic record.

When a two-shot swing went in the 28-year-old's favour as he birdied the par-5 tenth and Li ran up a bogey after being forced to take a penalty drop from a bush, it looked as though McIlroy was destined to taste success just two events into his eagerly-awaited return following a three-month break.

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"I wanted to win". "I showed that even whenever I didn't have my best stuff today I was able to battle around and get in at a decent score".

"It was incredible to play with Rory".

McIlroy has now finished third and second in his two starts since calling an early end to an injury-plagued and winless 2017 campaign, but will rue his wayward drive on the 16th among an otherwise fine display from the tee.

"But being in the positions I've been in and having two close calls it's a little hard". And also on 18, I didn't think I would make that one, either.

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'Ask me in a few days and we can talk about the positives to take from here and last week in Abu Dhabi but the competitor in me means it's hard to take right now, ' said McIlroy. He proved that was no fluke with a third-place finish in last year's Open Championship. But I think with the greens being quite firm, I just need hit the ball in the fairway, something I didn't do in Abu Dhabi in the final round last week.

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