Sam Torrance: Li Haotong's aggressive style paid off in Dubai duel with Rory McIlroy

Sam Torrance
Follow Sam
Omega Dubai Desert Classic - Day Four
Source: Getty

I like aggressive players. They will always have good weeks, and when they do they simply revel in it, as Li Haotong did on his way to winning the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday.

Li is very aggressive, has a great all-round game and is something of a birdie machine, from what I have seen.

Rory McIlroy pushed him all the way at the weekend, but the Chinese youngster always looked comfortable and produced a fantastic performance, making three birdies in the last four holes to beat the four-time Major winner by one shot.

Read more: Rory McIlroy's wobble lets Li Haotong grab glory in Dubai

This was Li’s second European Tour title and his biggest win yet. It’s a massive step for the 22-year-old, who looks like he will go a lot further.

It’s no coincidence that the previous three winners in Dubai were Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett and Rory, who went on to win either the Masters or the order of merit later that season.

Players love playing there and in Abu Dhabi, where the perfect conditions mean that the cream tends to rise to the top.

How Li follows this up remains to be seen but he has certainly got his season off to a flyer. He is now in the top 50 and heading for the Masters, so that’s huge.

All credit to him and it’s great for the game to see young players like him coming through.

Rory had his chances to land a first win for more than a year. He didn’t quite pull it off – he paid for a three-putt at 13 and a wayward tee shot at 16 – and he will feel that he has let the title slip.

Omega Dubai Desert Classic - Day Four
McIlroy has played his last two tournaments in 40 under par (Source: Getty)

You always have to take the positives though. He was 40 under par for his rounds in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and you would usually expect that to be enough to land at least one of the tournaments.

He just came up against someone slightly better on the day, and it’s amazing how often that can happen even to great players.

Rory did everything but win. His game looked absolutely bang on: his swing seems more compact, he putted well. He was very impressive and there is nothing he needs to work on.

Tyrrell Hatton, in third place, had another good week, as did fellow Englishman Chris Paisley, who was fifth for the second consecutive week.

McIlroy was not the only former world No1 rediscovering his form of old this week, with Jason Day claiming his first win since 2016 at the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour.

The Australian eventually saw off Swede Alex Noren on Monday at the sixth play-off hole. Day is a wonderful star when fit and it’s great to see him back, although he clearly is not 100 per cent yet following back problems.

Farmers Insurance Open - Final Round
Day claimed his first title for almost two years on Monday (Source: Getty)

I thought the way Tiger Woods battled ins his first event of the year was great. He wasn’t magnificent but he looked fit and for someone like him to fight to make the cut and then finish 23rd like he did was fantastic.

Read more: Fleetwood, Rahm and Garcia complete ideal week for Europe

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

Related articles