Rory McIlroy birdied the last hole of a thrilling final round to hold off Patrick Reed and win the Dubai Desert Classic for a third time on Monday.
In a tournament that finished a day later than scheduled due to poor weather last Thursday and Friday, the world number one got himself out of a spot of bother on the 18th to start the year with a maiden Rolex Series victory
American Reed threw a tee in McIlroy's direction at Emirates Golf Club last week after being snubbed for a handshake following a dispute between the pair, but the Northern Irishman held his nerve to avoid throwing away his lead as the tension mounted during the last round.
LIV Golf star Reed was involved in more controversy on Sunday when he took an unplayable penalty drop after his ball got lodged in a tree, with question marks raised over whether it was in fact his ball he had identified by using binoculars.
McIlroy took a three-shot advantage into the final round, but Texan Reed carded a seven-under 65 and birdied the last hole to ramp up the pressure on the four-time major champion.
A tee shot that held up precariously close to the water left McIlroy with work to do at 18 and he had to wait for his second shot while Reed was coming close to an eagle three up in front of him before sinking a short birdie putt.
McIlroy laid up short of the water before showing his class to land his third shot 15 feet from the pin and duly avoided a play-off by draining a brilliant putt for the win.
Never in doubt @McIlroyRory claims his first Rolex Series victory.#HeroDDC | #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/GVylbKzHVD— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) January 30, 2023
A closing four-under 68 was enough for the 33-year-old to get the job done, finishing with back-to-back birdies to end the tournament on 19 under – beating Reed by one shot.
McIlroy had made his only bogey of the week at 15, but put that behind him to finish with a flourish following a steady start – adding to the Dubai Desert Classic victories he celebrated in 2009 and 2015.
Reed went out in 32 following three gains and maintained his momentum with an eagle-three at the 10th, then a further two birdies at 11 and 13.
He dropped a shot at 16 and a birdie at the last proved to be in vain as he fell just short.
Lucas Herbert finished strongly with a 66 to take third place, three adrift of McIlroy, with Callum Shinkwin fourth at 15 under and Julien Brun a further stroke back. Ian Poulter double-bogeyed the last and had to settle for joint-sixth along with Thomas Pieters following a closing two-under 70.