RORY MCILROY squandered a two-shot lead with eight holes to play as China’s Li Haotong claimed the biggest win of his career in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
McIlroy overturned a one-shot overnight deficit with the aid of three birdies in the first 10 holes at Emirates Golf Club, but bogeyed the 11th and 16th.
And although the four-time major winner birdied the final two holes, Li did likewise under enormous pressure to complete a closing 69 and win by a single shot.
Li’s 23-under-par total is a tournament record and gives the 22-year-old a second European Tour title, as well as a place in the world’s top 50.
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 be disappointed at failing to convert a two-shot lead at halfway.
The 28-year-old’s closing 69 left him on 22 under par, two shots ahead of England’s Tyrrell Hatton, who saved par on the 18th in a closing 66 despite finding the water with his approach.
Hatton, who finished third on 20 under par, said: “I’m really happy with how I played today. It was pretty tough conditions, a bit windier than previous days. To go bogey-free is always good. So overall, I’d say pretty happy”.