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Li beats McIlroy to win in Dubai

Li beats McIlroy to win in Dubai

And although the four-time major victor birdied the final two holes, Li did likewise under enormous pressure to complete a closing 69 and win by a single shot. Two hours later, dejection was writ large across McIlroy's face as Li celebrated the finest win of his fledgling career.

McIlroy, victor of the tournament in 2009 and 2015, is looking to become the second three-time champion here after Ernie Els. "Wanted to try to go flag hunting a little bit, which maybe I shouldn't have done, but happy with how I played".

"I didn't expect to play as well as I did last week and it's been nice to continue that into this week", McIlroy said.

He'll be bitterly disappointed about not seeing the competition out after leading by two shots at the halfway mark.

McIlroy finished the 2017 season early after an injury-plagued year and he's now finished second and third since his return.

"I know that if he continues to play like that, he will be tough to beat, but I feel like if I play my game, I've got a good chance". "Having two close calls the first couple of weeks of the year, it's a little hard".

Trailing Li by one shot overnight, a par at the first was enough for McIlroy to close the gap.

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McIlroy's last win was in August 2016 at the Tour Championship, and he was impressed by Li. McIlroy was again profligate with short iron in hand at the par-five 13th.

A couple of loose drives resulted in a par on the par-5 third hole and a bogey on the par-4 eighth, and there was another dropped shot on the par-3 fourth hole.

McIlroy was two clear after birdieing 10, while Li could only card a bogey on the par-five, seemingly putting the Ulsterman in position for a 14th European Tour title.

"I kept leaving myself in places where I couldn't give it a run at the hole because they were downhill, down-grain, downwind", McIlroy said. So I didn't really leave it in the best spots to be aggressive with my putts. He proved that was no fluke with a third-place finish in last year's Open Championship.

"I tried right until the very end and made two good birdies, I made him [Li] win it in the end, which was all I could do, and he played very well on the way in, birdieing three of the last four".

"The first hole I made bogey and got to come back really quick, which was good". The biggest move on day four arrived from Scotland's Richie Ramsay, who claimed a share of sixth courtesy of a 64.

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