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30 January 2018, 01:03 | Susie Olson
McIlroy is one of three players on 10 under
McIlroy, a two-time Dubai Desert Classic victor, held the 36-hole lead after completing his second round early Saturday.
Li Haotong faced down the one and only Rory McIlroy after overturning a two-shot deficit from the 10th hole to win the Dubai Desert Classic.
The Welshman carded a three under 69 around Emirates Golf Club - where play started almost three hours late due to fog - moving him to 13 under for the tournament, enough for a one stroke lead ahead of Chinese star Li Haotong who fired ten birdies for his 66.
Meanwhile, Li Haotong produced a late burst of scoring to hold off the challenge from Rory McIlroy and win his second European Tour title after a thrilling final-day battle.
His stunning finish under incredible pressure further cemented his reputation as one of the European Tour's great clutch performers, following on from a closing 63 at last season's Open Championship and a fourth-round 64 to win on home soil at the 2016 Volvo China Open.
But the momentum swung Li's way when he dropped a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th hole from the back fringe and McIlroy made a bogey on the 16th after hitting his three-wood off the tee into the waste area.
That he didn't was more down to his own slackness than that strong finish by his playing partner.
An errant McIlroy drive led to a bogey on the 16th. McIlroy was again profligate with short iron in hand at the par-five 13th. The overnight leader, he was back in front a hole later.
The pair's struggles spread, McIlroy bogeying 11 and Li dropping another shot at the next hole, but the Chinese found a spectacular second wind to pull clear.
At the par five 10th, two majestic shots set up an easy two-putt birdie to Li's untidy bogey six.
It was turning out to be a sort of a dream comeback for the Northern Irishman after he finished tied for third at the Abu DHabi HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi and slow-burning his way into contention for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. But this one will definitely hurt for a couple of days.
"And then just a bogey out of nowhere on 11, it was just a bad nine-iron there, and then the three-putt on 13, those were the key two holes of the tournament really". "It was a couple of bad shots, couple of poor decisions, couple of mental errors".
"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.
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