McIlroy holds his nerve
Teenager gets up and down at 18 to win by one
Last Updated: February 4, 2009 9:52am
McIlroy: rollercoaster round
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy survived a back-nine meltdown to claim his maiden European Tour title at the Dubai Desert Classic.
"Along with Alvaro Quiros, and also with Martin Kaymer, we have some fantastic talent coming through in Europe. Right now Rory is at the head of that group. I don't mind if he's showing any of this form - to be 20-under at any time is good, he's doing fantastically well at 19-years-old."
Colin Montgomerie Quotes of the week
The 19-year-old led by five shots with four holes to play but made bogeys at 15, 16 and 17.
Justin Rose's birdie three at 17 meant McIlroy headed down 18 with just a one-shot lead over the Englishman.
When he found sand with his third he looked in danger of throwing it all away, but he chipped to four feet and holed the par putt for the win. Rose had moments earlier just missed a 15-foot birdie try.
The win over a strong field elevates McIlroy to 14th in the world rankings. He is the seventh youngest winner in European Tour history.
Dubai-based Swede Henrik Stenson (67) finished third at 17 under, with Robert Karlsson (65), Martin Kaymer (67) and Paul Casey (68) a further shot adrift in fifth.
McIlroy also held a six-stroke lead after picking up birdies in all of his opening three holes.
But a wobble in the middle of his front nine briefly left him just one ahead before five straight birdies from the ninth set him up for a seemingly straightforward win.
There was still late drama after another run of bogeys and when he hit his approach to 18 too long and left himself a sand shot back towards the water, the teenager looked in trouble.
But McIlroy held his nerve to chip out to four feet and after watching Rose miss his chance, steadied himself to claim his biggest career cheque and move up to second place on the Race to Dubai with his fourth top-10 finish of the season.
The leaderboard will make welcome reading for new Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, with Miguel Angel Jimenez (66) finishing tied for seventh with world number two Sergio Garcia (67) just outside the top 10.
The Scot signed for a final round 67, which included six birdies over his back nine, to finish tied for 13th at 11 under alongside Ross Fisher, Qatar Masters winner Alvaro Quiros and Anders Hansen.
Montgomerie is relishing seeing a talented crop of youngsters come of age. He told Sky Sports: "I'm a good board watcher and we have a superstar here in the making.
"Along with Alvaro Quiros, and also with Martin Kaymer, we have some fantastic talent coming through in Europe.
"Right now Rory is at the head of that group. I don't mind if he's showing any of this form - to be 20-under at any time is good, he's doing fantastically well at 19-years-old."