Li Haotong took home more than the Dubai Desert Classic championship trophy after four days of nail-biting golf at the Major of the Middle East.
A single stroke was enough to secure the title for the Chinese star, beating off stiff competition from Rory Mcillroy.
Haotong managed to birdie five of the last seven holes for a 69 and a tournament-record 23 under par.
Following his victory at the Dubai Desert Classic, which was held at the Majlis course at the Emirates Golf Club, Haotong became the first Chinese golfer to break into the world’s top 50. He’s now targeting a debut at The Masters in Augusta.
The victory earned the 22-year-old a trophy, winner’s cheque and an OMEGA Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Master Chronometer watch.
OMEGA President and CEO Raynald Aeschlimann said: “I’m proud to sincerely congratulate Li Haotong on his win and for treating us all to such world class golf. It’s been a thrill from the first day to the last. OMEGA feels very honoured to be part of this fantastic event, which is a real highlight of the golfing year. This has been the perfect start to 2018 and I wish all the players a fantastic season ahead.”
The OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic has been a part of the European Tour since its inception in 1989. This is the ninth year that OMEGA has been the title sponsor.
Colin Montgomerie has praised Rory McIlroy’s impressive comeback form and believes the Northern Irishman can go on to seal the Masters title in April if he improves his putting.
The 28-year-old finished in a tie for third in Abu Dhabi last week after nearly four months out of the game due to injury.
A fantastic build-up to Augusta waits for McIlroy – which will include another seven tournaments – continuing in Dubai where he is currently tied second after round one.
The four-time major winner posted a stunning opening round 65 – showing flashes of class as he bids to win his third title at Emirates Golf Club.
“Rory is roaring back after 100 days away and a superb tournament last week. Who’s to say he won’t be in Dubai as well? I mean, this is good for the Masters coming up,” Montgomerie said to Sport360.
“I know how much it means to him to win all four Majors. If Rory holes out the way Jordan Spieth or Jan Rahm does right now, he will win the Masters.
“He hits the ball better than anyone through the green, it’s just a matter of getting it in the hole.”
In a Ryder Cup year, McIlroy’s early season form bodes well for a European team aiming to win the cup back from the American’s after suffering a convincing defeat two years ago at Hazeltine.
Tiger Woods marked his return to PGA Tour action after a 12-month absence with a level-par 72 at the Farmers Insurance Open.
The 14-time major winner hit the opening round’s halfway point one over par but recovered that shot on the back nine in a steady comeback.
Woods endured a frustrating start, suffering a bogey on the opening hole at Torrey Pines after missing a tricky putt to save par.
He dropped another shot at the par-four fifth but birdied the next hole and picked up another two gains either side of a bogey after the turn.
The 42-year-old closed his round holding a share of 83rd place, seven shots adrift of clubhouse leader Tony Finau.
Summing up round one, he told the PGA Tour website it was “fun to compete again” but admitted he was “probably a little bit rusty”.
After nearly making an ace the par-3 16th, he said: “It was just a full six-iron. I just had to throw it up in the air as high as I could. It felt good, it looked good and then we were just listening for some noise.”
Asked what adjustments he would need to make for round two, he added: “I’ve got to hit my irons a little better than I did today.
“I didn’t hit them very close, didn’t give myself a lot of looks. It’s hard to make a lot of birdies when you’re not giving yourself any looks and I didn’t do that today.
“So tomorrow hopefully I’ll drive better and hit irons a lot closer and we’ve got the better of the two greens tomorrow so we’ll see what happens.”
Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, including his last major in the 2008 US Open, but missed the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open this time last year.
He withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic the following week and remained sidelined for the rest of 2017 as he recovered from spinal fusion surgery.
Woods secured a tie for ninth place in December’s 18-man Hero World Challenge, and has been rated 22/1 to land his first tour victory since 2013.