DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Tommy Fleetwood benefited from two huge errors on the back nine from Rory McIlroy and produced his own strong finish to win the Dubai Invitational following a back-and-forth final-round duel on Sunday.
McIlroy had already three-putted from 2 feet at No. 14 by the time he reached the 18th tee with a one-shot lead over Fleetwood and pulled his drive into the water.
Fleetwood followed that by driving into the middle of the fairway and sent his approach to 16 feet, well inside McIlroy after the world No. 2 had to take a drop.
McIlroy missed his winding putt up the hill and Fleetwood made his own to shoot 67 for 19-under 265 overall, securing a first win since the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November 2022.
He was a stroke clear of McIlroy (67), who tied for second place with Thriston Lawrence (64) in the first European tour event of 2024.
“First week back out, I think you’re going to expect some of those sloppy mistakes,” McIlroy said, “and unfortunately for me those mistakes came at the wrong time today.”
McIlroy smiled and gave Fleetwood a big hug on the 18th green after missing out on a first victory since the Scottish Open in July. They are close friends and were playing partners at the Ryder Cup last year.
“It’s always very special when you play with one of your friends, one of the best players in the world, challenging yourself against those guys,” the 15th-ranked Fleetwood said.
“Rory’s been a very, very supportive influence on me over the past … I’ve watched him do amazing things down the stretch in golf tournaments, and today was my turn.”
McIlroy, the world No. 2, started the day a stroke back from Fleetwood, was three behind after the 10th hole but four birdies in a five-hole stretch — either side of that unfathomable three-putt on the par-3 14th — put him in a tie with Fleetwood.
After a sloppy bogey at No. 16, Fleetwood holed a birdie putt from 30 feet at the 17th to stay within one shot of McIlroy and then capitalized on his playing partner’s worst swing of the day on the 18th tee.
“I’ve had plenty of times where somebody has finished well against me when I’ve not quite done enough and today was my turn to walk through the door today,” said Fleetwood, who lives in Dubai.
“It was just one of those things. You learn every time you play, good, bad, whatever it is, you always should learn every time you play. The more you put yourself in these positions, you keep figuring out who you want to be as a player when you’re out there, what attitude you want to have, how you want to play, and just work toward that, and today was a good day for me.”