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McIlroy barely hangs on for first European Tour win



Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Sports Network) - It certainly wasn't pretty, but 19-year-old Rory McIlroy finally won his first European Tour event on Sunday at the Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy nearly squandered a five-shot lead with four to play thanks to three consecutive bogeys from the 15th. Luckily for McIlroy, he ended with a one- stroke victory over Justin Rose to become the seventh-youngest winner in European Tour history.

McIlroy shot a final-round, two-under 70 to come in at 19-under 269. Rose fired a five-under 67 and lost by a single stroke at minus-18 at Emirates Golf Club.

"I dug in deep and it was great to come out on top," said McIlroy, who ended up with a wire-to-wire victory. "I've got that first win. Hopefully, onwards and upwards from here."

Henrik Stenson, ranked seventh in the world, also shot a 67 on Sunday and took third at 17-under 271.

Paul Casey (68), world No. 8 Robert Karlsson (65) and last year's runner-up Martin Kaymer (67) shared fourth place at minus-16.

It was a long day at Emirates Golf Club.

Two lengthy fog delays at the beginning of play on Thursday and Friday set the tournament back. The third round was completed on Sunday morning, then it was back out for the final round.

Perhaps that's what plagued McIlroy down the stretch because early on, he looked like he was going to cruise to victory No. 1.

He got off to a fantastic start in Sunday's final round with three straight birdies out of the gate. That gave McIlroy a five-shot cushion, but a double- bogey at five thanks to a missed two-footer and a bogey at eight dropped his lead to two strokes.

That was all the wake-up call McIlroy needed.

He birdied the next five holes in a row and after a par at 14, found himself five shots clear of the field.

Things fell apart quickly.

McIlroy bogeyed 15, 16 and 17. Rose birdied the 17th and suddenly it was a one-shot lead for McIlroy with one hole to play.

Rose definitely had his chance. He missed a 15-footer to force at least a playoff. That stayed above ground, but he was not out of it completely thanks to an errant third from McIlroy.

The teenager's third landed in a greenside bunker and he blasted out to four feet. That length of putt reminded him of his best chance of victory at last year's European Masters.

On the 72nd hole of that event, McIlroy had inside four feet to win his first title. He missed that putt, but had a chance for redemption, and that's what McIlroy got. He converted the par putt to walk off with the nerve-wracking win.

"After that third shot on 18, I thought Switzerland all over again," said McIlroy, referring to the site of the European Masters. "I composed myself, hit a great trap shot and said to myself, 'this is just for par.' Knocked it in the back of the hole."

McIlroy also lost a playoff at the Hong Kong Open in late November.

Miguel Angel Jimenez (66), runner-up the last two weeks Louis Oosthuizen (74), Scott Strange (69) and Anthony Wall (69) shared seventh place at 13-under-par 275.

World No. 2 Sergio Garcia carded a five-under 67 and tied for 11th at minus-12.

Recently named European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie also shot a 67 in the final round and finished knotted in 13th at 11-under 277.

02/01 09:18:32 ET


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