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Haotong Li hails special win over Rory McIlroy at Dubai Desert Classic

Haotong Li hails special win over Rory McIlroy at Dubai Desert Classic

Li finished on a tournament-record 23-under-par 265 after a final-round 3-under 69 to win by one shot over McIlroy, who also shot a 69.

"P***** off" was how he summed up squandering a two-shot lead with eight holes to play in being pipped by China's Haotong Li in his bid for a record-equalling third victory in the Omega Desert Classic. Two hours later, dejection was writ large across McIlroy's face as Li celebrated the finest win of his fledgling career.

Two near misses, that must've hurt Rory McIlroy.

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.

"I didn't expect to play as well as I did last week and it's been nice to continue that into this week", McIlroy said. But being in the positions I've been in and having two close calls the first couple of weeks of the year, it's a little hard.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, South African duo Darren Fichardt and Haydn Porteous, Irishman Paul Dunne and China's Li Haotong were six under, a shot clear of a group containing defending champion Sergio Garcia.

McIlroy's last win was in August 2016 at the Tour Championship, and he was impressed by Li.

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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. "I always want to win, and I just didn't do enough when I needed to", added McIlroy.

Still, what sustains golfers of McIlroy's standing is tournament glory.

"I mean, birdieing 10, going two ahead there with Li making bogey, I thought I was in the driver's seat and just a bogey out of nowhere on 11, I just a bad 9-iron there".

Li and McIlroy's nearest challenger during the final round came from Tyrrell Hatton, who carded a bogey-free 66 to finish three strokes off the pace in third.

"I tried until the very end, made him win it in the end, which was all I could do, and he played very well on the way in, birdieing three of the last four". Hit a lot of really good putts that didn't go in where yesterday they all went in. He proved that was no fluke with a third-place finish in last year's Open Championship. But there were a couple of really poor shots in there that I'd love to have back'.

Jason Scrivener was the highest finishing Australian, claiming a share of sixth.

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