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Rory McIlroy | Hero Dubai Desert Classic

By The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rory McIlroy watched his 15-foot birdie putt roll into the cup, clenched his fist and let out a roar to celebrate a victory.

McIlroy finished birdie-birdie to shoot 4-under 68 and win by a stroke from Reed, who shot 65.

The 33-year-old had won last season’s DP World Tour’s season-long Race to Dubai as well as the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup.

“Mentally, today was probably one of the toughest rounds I have ever had to play because it would be really easy to let your emotions get in the way,” McIlroy said. “I just had to really focus on myself and forget who was up there on the leaderboard.”

“This is probably sweeter than it should be,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy started a year with a win for the first time in his career — he has come close numerous times in nearby Abu Dhabi, where he has typically chosen to play his year-opening tournament — and backed up victories at the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009 and 2015.

Needing a birdie at the last to win, McIlroy’s drive on No. 18 dribbled into the rough beside the water to the right of the fairway — he watched it all the way, clearly fearing the worst — and he decided to lay up. His third shot from 92 yards was close enough and the world No. 1 rolled in the putt.

McIlroy finished on 19-under overall. He wound up winning with his B game and was particularly proud how he held up down the last, having hit shots into the water in front of the green on Sunday and also in the final round last year, costing him the title.

“It was a battle all day — honestly, it’s been a battle all week,” McIlroy. “I feel as if I haven’t had my best all week but just managed my game so well and played really smart. Even that second shot at the last. I probably could have got to the green but with what happened yesterday and last year, I tried to give myself a wedge and get it up and down for the win.

“Ecstatic that I gave myself the opportunity the first week back out. I managed my game well.”

Lucas Herbert of Australia shot 66 and placed third, three strokes behind McIlroy.

Check out “Watts” in Rory McIlroy’s bag below.

Driver: TaylorMade Stealth Plus (Fujikura Ventus Black 6X shaft), 9 degrees

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (Fujikura Ventus Black 8X shaft), 15 degrees

5-wood: TaylorMade Stealth Plus (Fujikura Ventus Black 9X shaft), 19 degrees

Irons: TaylorMade Rors Proto (3-PW; Project X 7.0 shafts)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (54 S-Grind bent to 55° and 58 proto K-grind, bent to 59°; Project X 6.5 shafts)

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Hydro Blast (SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT Tour grip)

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Playing the 18th under pressure 💪#HeroDDC | #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/JYruu8BKfr

— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) January 30, 2023