Dubai Desert Classic: Rory McIlroy wins the tournament for the fourth time

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Written By BBC News

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Rory McIlroy defended his title at the Dubai Desert Classic, beating Poland’s Adrian Meronk by one stroke.

The 34-year-old Northern Irishman made par in the final match to shoot a two-under 70 and finished at 14 under to win the tournament for a record fourth time.

American Cameron Young, the overnight leader, was two shots out of third place after a two-over 74.

“It’s really cool,” said McIlroy, surpassing the record of three wins he shared with South African Ernie Els.

“I didn’t really think about it during the course of the round, it was a really tough day.

“It was one of those days where there weren’t many fireworks because the course was so difficult, but I held on as best I could and luckily no one at the top of the leaderboard managed to make much headway… amazing to get my fourth win here.”

McIlroy’s victory followed his second-place finish at the Dubai Invitational the previous weekend.

The world number two, playing in just his second tournament since November, put himself in contention with a nine-under 63 in the third round, taking him to 12 under par for the tournament and two shots behind Young.

Three birdies on the front nine of his final round, and just one drop shot on the 13th, were enough for McIlroy to continue his winning streak in a tournament that earned him his first professional victory in 2009.

He now looks to advance towards this year’s Majors, which begin with the Masters in April.

“It’s a great start to the season,” added McIlroy, who can complete the Big Four’s “career slam” with a win at Augusta.

“I started well last year with the win here, it’s a great platform to build on. I know I’m playing good golf.

“There are still a couple of misses off the tee, a couple of little things to work on, but these weeks are great. Obviously it’s great to have competition and come out victorious as well.”

Young’s challenge failed with two dropped shots early, while three birdies on the back nine were negated by three more bogeys for the 2022 Open runner-up.

McIlroy, meanwhile, birdied the second, eighth and ninth holes to enter the turn with a three-stroke lead at 15 under par.

Meronk, who started the day tied with McIlroy, made another birdie at the third to keep pace with the four-time major winner.

The 30-year-old Pole appeared to be out of contention after a double bogey on the par-three seventh and a bogey on the ninth.

But after making three birdies in the first five holes of the back nine, along with McIlroy’s six on the par-five 13th, he moved back within one shot of the defending champion.

McIlroy made par on the 14th, 15th and 16th holes, while Meronk, playing in the penultimate group, bogeyed the par-four 16th before fighting back to birdie the last and establish a clubhouse lead. 13 under par.

But McIlroy saved his last two holes to close out the victory.

Meanwhile, Tommy Fleetwood, who beat McIlroy to win the Dubai Invitational, closed on a 73 to finish tied for 14th at six under, along with compatriot Alex Fitzpatrick and Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin.

England’s Callum Shinkwin finished two strokes ahead of that group in a tie for 11th.

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