Justin Rose defeated Li Haotong in a play-off to defend the first title of his illustrious career at the Turkish Airlines Open, the sixth Rolex Series event of the 2018 season, and returned to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking in the process.
The Englishman also became the first player to successfully defend a Rolex Series title as he overcame China’s Li with a par on the first extra hole following a thrilling final day battle at Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort.
Rose started the day three shots behind Li but led by two with four to play as he produced the kind of consistent display that helped him record six top ten finishes in the 2018 Race to Dubai before arriving in Turkey this week.
An incredible eagle on the 15th moved Li back level but Rose duly replied with a birdie at the 16th to move to the front again. A couple of bogeys coming in, though, paired with Li’s dropped shot on the final hole, meant they finished tied at the top on 17 under.
A three-putt from Li on the first trip back up the par four 18th hole then handed Rose his 11th European Tour win, and moved him into third place in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, as he joined his 2018 Ryder Cup team mates Jon Rahm and Alex Noren as a multiple Rolex Series winner.
Belgian Thomas Detry and Adrian Otaegui of Spain both signed for rounds of 65 to sit two shots behind the play-off places at 15 under par.
German Major winner Martin Kaymer and Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard were one shot further back at 14 under par, with English pair Tommy Fleetwood and Danny Willett, and another Dane in Thorbjørn Olesen at 13 under par.
Justin Rose: “It’s really important to have defended a title. It’s taken me a long time to do it. Maybe I haven’t won enough tournaments to give myself enough opportunities to defend, but this golf course obviously suits my eye, and when you do find a golf course that does suit your eyes, you feel like you should give yourself opportunities to win there, but to do it back-to-back is very special.
“It’s really nice to be back at World Number One. That’s just something to be proud of. It certainly doesn’t make you one-under par on the first tee the next time you play but it’s something to be proud of for sure.
“There were moments out there where it looked like both of us weren’t holding our nerve very well. It was quite tricky to putt to be coming in at 17 to be honest with you, and obviously 18, a scalp there at the end; that’s a treacherous green and one you definitely needed to respect.
“It was a fun battle. Obviously, I got myself two ahead with a few to play. Haotong made a wonderful eagle at 15 and at 16 we were both in there tight and I kind of got my nose in front again.
“It was disappointing for me to finish five, five, really. The five at 18 you can somewhat live with. The five at 17 I should have cleaned that hole up easier than I did. It ended up okay in the end.
“And obviously I do have a spare thought for Haotong. It’s a tough way to finish. He’s hit a positive putt to try and win, and that green, like I said, is very tough.”
Li Haotong: “A tough day for me honestly and I holed a couple of chances, but not until the end, the first playoff, I saw that ball definitely go in, but a little bit too much.
“It’s a pretty good round, especially against Rosey, and he’s such a nice guy. Hopefully next time I can play better. Hopefully I can have a better finish to the season.”