Call him the King of Dubai.
It is McIlroy’s fourth career victory at the Dubai Desert Classic, the most out of any player in the 35-year history of this marquee DP World Tour event.
“It is really cool. You know, I didn’t really think about [potentially being the fourth player to win this tournament] during the course of the round,” McIlroy said of his win.
“It was a really tricky day. It was hard to get it close and make a ton of birdies… but it’s a great start to the season.”
He shot a 2-under 70 to finish at 14-under overall, one stroke ahead of 30-year-old Pole Adrian Meronk.
His march to victory began at the 351-yard par-4 2nd hole, where McIlroy launched a perfect drive that landed in the heart of the green. He then two-putted for his first birdie of the day.
That put some pressure on 54-hole leader Cameron Young, who then held a one-shot lead over McIlroy walking off the second green.
Young then stumbled, bogeying the fourth and sixth holes to quickly drop to one behind McIlroy.
McIlroy maintained his one-shot lead by the time this final pairing arrived at the 8th hole, a 459-yard dogleg right par-4. The Northern Irishman then rolled in a 31-footer for birdie to increase his lead by two. Then, at the 9th, McIlroy holed a 16-foot birdie putt to improve his lead further.
“The pivotal point for me came on the 8th and 9th hole,” McIlroy said.
“Making two threes there, that sort of set me up to try to control it on the way in.”
Funny enough, his birdie on the 9th would be his last of the day. He played very conservatively on the back nine, knowing he had the lead in hand. But he almost coughed it up at the par-5 13th, where he duck-hooked his tee shot in the native area well left of the fairway.
He even had to hit a provisional.
“I made that one blunder on 13 and made bogey there but felt like I steadied the ship well over the last few holes,” McIlroy said.
“It was one of those days where there was not 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 leaderboard made much of a run.”
After bogeying the 13th, McIlroy fell back to 14-under, but finished with four straight pars to hold on for the win. And considering where he began the day on Saturday, nobody would have ventured to guess that he had a chance to defend his title at the Emirates Club.
McIlroy entered the third round ten shots behind Young, but a 9-under 63 on Saturday vaulted him up the leaderboard and into the mix.
“I thought on Friday night, I thought 10-under for the weekend, I would have a really good chance to win,” McIlroy reasoned.
“I shot 11-under and ended up winning by one. I have played the game long enough to know how these things are going to go. Thankfully, I played the golf I needed to, and it was just incredible to get my fourth win here at the Emirates.”
The four-time major winner played terrific once again in the United Arab Emirates, demonstrating that his current form is excellent.
McIlroy’s next start will come at the beginning of February at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the second Signature Event of the 2024 PGA Tour season.
So, watch out, world; McIlroy is playing well, and he knows it, too.
“I know I’m playing good golf,” McIlroy said.
“There are still a couple of misses off the tee left. One got me on 18 last week [at the Dubai Invitational]. I missed a tee shot left on 13 today which sort of cost me a shot… A couple of little things still to work on, but these weeks are great. You learn a ton from them, and obviously great to get the competition and come out on top as well.”