Search icon


15th Jan 2024

Rory McIlroy had a novel explanation for costly 18th hole drive that went badly wrong


“First week back out, I think you’re going to expect some of those sloppy mistakes.”

Rory McIlroy will be hoping he got the early shanks, slumps and shakes out of the way. The four-time major winner looked a class apart when he got it going, at the Dubai Invitational. When it went wrong, though, it went badly wrong.

In a tournament that was eventually won by Tommy Fleetwood, at -19, McIlroy raced to -11 after only 22 holes. He recovered from a quadruple-bogey 7, during his second round, to lead the field by two. Fleetwood passed him with a 63, on Saturday, and the Ryder Cup teammates had a ding-dust Sunday battle.

McIlroy carded seven birdies and two bogeys, heading to the 18th, in his final round and led Fleetwood by a stroke. The English golfer is one of the game’s best nearly men but fate flipped in his favour as McIlroy imploded, first finding water off the tee, then three-putting from a starting position of two-feet from the hole. It was Happy Gilmore stuff, and he won’t appreciate the Sky Sports emoji, here:

Classy reaction from Rory McIlroy

Tommy Fleetwood was presented the tournament on a platter, but he still deserves credit for going birdie-birdie to put that pressure on Rory McIlroy and win the day.

Following his tie for second, which earned him just over €197,000, McIlroy expanded on that costly final hole drive. “I tried to hit a tee shot on the last; I probably wanted to hit a different shot because that was what was most comfortable,” he told reporters. “But I tried to go with the shot that I feel like I should hit, and then I wanted to try to turn one over because it was the only way that I was going to be able to carry the bunker on the right, too. Just a bad swing at the end there.”

McIlroy was nothing but classy, too, as he paid the victorious Fleetwood his dues. He said:

“Look, I’m really happy for Tommy. He’s played some incredible golf over the last year without actually getting a win. So for him to get the win here, it’s great for him and it will do his confidence a world of good, and hopefully he kicks on from it.

“But yeah, it was a good battle out there and hopefully I have many more with him this year and for the years ahead.”

You can catch the big final round highlights here:

An unbelievable start to 2024 on the DP World Tour

After a four-day swing in Dubai that had enough drama for a standalone Netflix series, golf writer Paddy Morgan has the full final day story.

Tommy Fleetwood played in the final group with Rory McIlroy and the Englishman took a one-shot lead into the final round. Conditions for day four were breezy with a 12 mile an hour wind. Both Fleetwood and McIlroy started with pars at the first and second hole, on a day the greens rolled 12 on the stimpmeter for day four.

The 2023 European Ryder Cup stars set up good birdie opportunities at the third hole after two fantastic bunker shots. Fleetwood had company on 15 under as McIlroy rolled in his birdie putt at the third hole. Fleetwood answered with a birdie of his own at the third hole to take the lead on 16 under. McIlroy missed the fairway at 569 yard par five fourth hole and was unsuccessful in finding the fairway with his layup.

McIlroy played an extraordinary long bunker shot but had to settle for par after missing his birdie effort. Fleetwood’s second shot at the par five fourth came up short and missed an opportunity to extend his lead. The fifth hole at Dubai Creek played difficult with only five birdies made on day four due to a extremely difficult pin. Both McIlroy and Fleetwood hit exceptional tee shots at the fifth hole and had opportunities to bounce back after not taking advantage of the fourth.

Rory McIlroy putted like a dream, until the 18th

Rory McIlroy showed yet again why he was the best putter on DP World Tour in 2023 as he rolled in his birdie putt to reach 16 under. Fleetwood went back into the lead after rolling in a short-range birdie putt at the fifth hole.

McIlroy made a massive error as he hit his four iron off the tee into the water at the sixth hole. McIlroy dropped a shot at the sixth hole and Fleetwood extended his lead to two shots.

Tommy Fleetwood failed to capitalise on a great second shot as he missed his birdie putt at the seventh hole. On the same hole McIlroy missed the fairway but played a sensational chip shot to avoid dropping two shots in a row.

Both Rory McIlroy and Fleetwood achieved a par at the difficult 228 yard par three eight hole. The four-time major winner played an excellent shot from 133 yards at the ninth hole but missed the putt to shoot a one under front nine. Fleetwood also had a par at the ninth to shoot a front nine of two under.

McIlroy missed the fairway at the par five 10th and missed the green to the left whereas Fleetwood came up short in the bunker. Fleetwood stitched his bunker shot and tapped in a birdie putt to reach 18 under. The Northern Irishman’s chip shot missed the green but managed to escape the 10th with a par.

McIlroy took advantage of his length as he hit a huge drive at the 11th then followed it up with a great wedge shot and made his first birdie of the back nine. McIlroy got a pep in his step as he also achieved a birdie at the par four 12th to close the gap on Fleetwood to one shot.

The English star went for the green with his second shot at the par five 13th which came to rest in a green-side bunker. McIlroy had 232 yards for his second at the par five but laid up and played a sensational wedge shot from 75 yards. Fleetwood was conservative with his bunker shot and only achieved a par at the 13th whereas McIlroy rolled in his birdie putt to tie the lead on 18 under.

It looked like McIlroy was going to make four birdies in a row as he hit his tee shot to three foot at the 14th hole. McIlroy had a moment of madness as he three putted from three feet which resulted in a bogey. McIlroy put the three putt behind him immediately as he rolled in a longer birdie putt at the 15th to return to 18 under.

McIlroy then hit an remarkable tee shot at the 16th but was unsuccessful with his birdie effort. Fleetwood’s tee shot at the 16 th took a big bounce off the green and failed to get up and down for par. He hit an extraordinary second shot from 109 yards at the 17 th and held the putt to reach 19 under.

On the same hole Fleetwood returned to 18 under after holing a long-range birdie putt. McIlroy only hit three fairways on day four and put his tee shot into the water at the 18th hole. Fleetwood found the fairway at the 18th and played a fantastic second shot to set up a winning birdie putt.

The best that McIlroy could manage at the 18 th was a bogey to finish on 18 under and in a tie for second. Fleetwood held his birdie putt and won the Dubai Invitational on 19 under. A fantastic start to the year and Fleetwood lays down a marker by getting the better of McIlroy.

Elsewhere, Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin finished in a tie for 25th on five under.

Rory McIlroy congratulates Tommy Fleetwood on his Dubai Invitational win. (Credit: Getty)

*Join SportsJOE’s WhatsApp community for first access to news, sports updates, and quizzes. Click on this link to receive news and the latest sports headlines directly to your phone.  You can leave the group at any time.

Related articles: