McIlroy: Dubai Desert Classic triumph over Reed 'sweeter than it should be or needs to be'

By Sports Desk January 30, 2023

Rory McIlroy said his victory over Patrick Reed at the Dubai Desert Classic was "sweeter than it should be or needs to be".

World number one McIlroy clinched his third title at the event in a thrilling final round, making a fine birdie at the last hole on Monday to fend off rival Reed.

Prior to the tournament American and LIV Golf defector Reed labelled McIlroy an "immature little child" for blanking him at the practice range and was also alleged to have thrown a tee at the Northern Irishman.

McIlroy said Reed's lawyer served him with court papers on Christmas Eve, although Reed said he was not behind the subpoena, with the case concerned being one brought by American attorney Larry Klayman relating to divisions between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.

Reed was involved in more controversy on Sunday when he took an unplayable penalty drop after his ball got lodged in a tree, with question marks raised over whether it was in fact his ball he had identified by using binoculars.

But McIlroy, considered by some as the PGA Tour's de facto spokesperson since LIV Golf's breakaway, came out on top in scintillating fashion.

"I think mentally today was probably one of the toughest rounds I've had to play, it would have been really easy to let emotions get in the way," he told DP World Tour media.

"I had to really concentrate on focusing on myself, forget who was up there on the leaderboard and I did that really, really well.

"I think I showed a lot of mental strength out there today and something to build on for the rest of the year.

"There's been a ton of positives this year, but also some things to learn from and improve on.

"I'm going to enjoy this, this is probably sweeter than it should be or needs to be but I feel like I've still got some stuff to work on.

"It's a great start to the year and a good foundation to work from."

McIlroy took a three-shot advantage into the final round, but victory could have slipped from his grasp when a tee shot held up close to the water on the 18th.

Yet the 33-year-old kept his cool to set up a 15-foot putt, which he sunk to avoid a play-off.

"Honestly I feel like I got lucky my ball didn't go in the water off the tee shot, it's such an awkward tee shot, driver's too much, three wood's not enough. I tried to hit an easy driver and it came off too hot," McIlroy said.

"I really only had one choice, to lay up and try to get up and down that way. I said yesterday with the two balls in the water on Sunday last year and yesterday, fool me once shame on me, fool me twice… I wasn't going to get fooled a third time."

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