Tommy Fleetwood snatches Dubai Invitational after late Rory McIlroy capitulation

Drama at the 72nd hole sees Englishman take title ahead of his European Ryder Cup colleague

Tommy Fleetwood after winning the Dubai Invitational at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. Getty Images
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It’s Dubai, so of course Rory McIlroy was contending right to the last. And yet a glitch in the matrix from times past reared its head at just the wrong time to deprive him of victory in the first Dubai Invitational.

Instead, Tommy Fleetwood carried off the title, after birdieing the last hole of the tournament.

While McIlroy is usually the most popular player at most tournaments he plays, Fleetwood is much loved, too, especially round the fairways of Dubai – where he is now resident.

His last-day playing partner, McIlroy, started the final hole with a one-stroke lead over him and Thristan Lawrence, who was already in the club house at 18-under par.

The world No 2’s chances were lanced, though, by a bogey which was brought about by a trip to the water.

That is not without precedent. Two years ago, McIlroy gave up the Dubai Desert Classic title to Viktor Hovland by finding water at the last at Emirates Golf Club.

Back then, he dunked his approach to the 18th green into the middle of the pond which protects the front.

This time around, he hooked his tee-shot on the 72nd hole at Dubai Creek and Yacht club into the body of water which gives the course its name.

Fleetwood, meanwhile, was a picture of poise. He arrowed his drive to the middle of the fairway, knocked his approach to 16ft, and holed the putt for the birdie which gave him a winning score of 19-under par

“This is obviously where I live and have a lot of support,” said Fleetwood, who led by one shot going into the final round. “It's great to kick off the year with a great result and push on from here.

“I feel like I've been saying for a long time; I've been doing a lot of really great things. I have amazing people that I'm working with, win, lose or draw today.

“Next week [when McIlroy and Fleetwood will both return for the Desert Classic] will be the same. We just crack on and we keep pushing forward and hopefully keep moving the right direction.”

LEADERBOARD

-19 T Fleetwood (Eng); -18 R McIlroy (NI), T Lawrence (SA); -16 J Smith; -15 F Molinari (Ita); -14 Z Lombard (SA), S Crocker (US)

Selected: -11 A Meronk (Pol); -10 E Ferguson (Sco); -8 R Fox (NZ) -7 L Donald (Eng); -5 T McKibbin (NI), N Hoejgaard (Den)

If McIlroy is left to rue a missed opportunity, his driver at the last was not alone. McIlroy was two feet away from a run of five birdies in a row down the stretch.

He fired his tee shot at the par-3 14th to kick in range – then inexplicably three putted.

“For the first week back out, it was a really positive week,” McIlroy said.

“Looking back on today, a tee shot in the water with an iron on the front nine [leading to bogey at the par-4 sixth, had that three-putt from three feet on the par 3, and then the water ball on the last.

“First week back out, I think you're going to expect some of those sloppy mistakes, and unfortunately for me, those mistakes came at the wrong time.

“But I'll reflect on it and learn, and there's still a lot of good stuff in there. But I just need to tidy up some of the edges, and if I do that, I feel good going into next week.”

Updated: January 14, 2024, 3:56 PM
LEADERBOARD

-19 T Fleetwood (Eng); -18 R McIlroy (NI), T Lawrence (SA); -16 J Smith; -15 F Molinari (Ita); -14 Z Lombard (SA), S Crocker (US)

Selected: -11 A Meronk (Pol); -10 E Ferguson (Sco); -8 R Fox (NZ) -7 L Donald (Eng); -5 T McKibbin (NI), N Hoejgaard (Den)