Herbert third as McIlroy has last laugh over Reed in Dubai

World No.1 Rory McIlroy has stormed home with birdies on the final two holes to win the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic by a single stroke over rebel LIV Golf tour-playing rival Patrick Reed.

McIlroy had a four-under-par final-round 68 at Emirates Golf Club on Monday to finish 19 under, while world No.89 Reed fired a seven under 65.

Rory McIlroy tees off on the eighth during his final round in Dubai.Credit:Getty

The 33-year-old captured the title for the third time and has started a year with a win for the first time in his career.

Australia’s Lucas Herbert shot a six-under-par 66 to claim outright third at 16 under, with compatriots Min Woo Lee (68) finishing 11 under and Jason Scrivener (69) five under.

The 2020 winner and current world No.66 Herbert drained seven final-round birdies, with his only blemish on the par-four 12th.

Four-time major champion McIlroy overcame a charge from Reed to win a tense duel between players who were involved in a pre-tournament spat.

Australia’s Lucas Herbert finished three shots off McIlroy at the Dubai Desert Classic.Credit:Getty

On downing his winning putt McIlroy clenched his fist, gritted his teeth and looked around to his caddie to celebrate a win that would have meant more than many of his others, considering the context.

“Mentally, today was probably one of the toughest rounds I have ever had to play because it would be really easy to let your emotions get in the way,” the Northern Irishman said. “And I just had to really focus on myself, forget who was up there on the leaderboard. I feel like I showed a lot of mental strength out there.”

He began the round with a three-shot lead — and four ahead of Reed — but was overtaken on the back nine by the American, who picked up seven shots in his first 13 holes.

Reed bogeyed the 16th but made birdie at 18 to put pressure on McIlroy.

Patrick Reed shared a running battle with world No.1 McIlroy over the past week.Credit:AP

The pair traded verbal blows on Wednesday after an interaction — of sorts — at the practice range on Tuesday that saw McIlroy snub Reed, who had gone over to wish the Northern Irishman a happy new year.

Reed walked away before lightly tossing a tee — featuring a logo of his 4 Aces team in the LIV Golf Series — in the direction of McIlroy, one of the most vocal critics of the Saudi-run breakaway series.

Reed said it was “unfortunate” that McIlroy didn’t shake his hand and was quoted as describing McIlroy as “an immature little child.”

The tournament was forced to finish on Monday after bad weather cut short play on the opening two days.

AAP with AP

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