Dubai, United Arab Emirates (SportsNetwork.com) - Rory McIlroy closed out the week with a 2-under 70 in Sunday's final round and the No. 1 player in the world coasted to a 3-shot victory over Alex Noren at the Dubai Desert Classic.
McIlroy picked up his 10th career victory on the European Tour as he finished at 22-under-par 266, tying the tournament record set by Thomas Bjorn in 2001 and Stephen Gallacher in 2013. McIlroy also captured this event back in 2009, which was his first win as a professional.
"Fantastic week. We're always treated so well here in Dubai. It's always great coming back," McIlroy stated during the trophy presentation. "Nice to be able to cut my name on that trophy again."
The victory is McIlroy's first since rattling off three straight wins last season at the British Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship. Prior to this week, McIlroy had finished in second place in each of his last four events.
"I felt like I was finishing second every time I was teeing it up so it was time for a change," McIlroy said. "Obviously the only way I wanted to go was one better and thankfully I was able to do that today. Played very, very nicely all week."
Noren shot up the leaderboard and put pressure on the leader with a 7-under 65 on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club, but it was not quite enough as he finished three shots back in the runner-up position at 19-under 269.
Two-time defending champion Gallacher fired a 3-under 69, which was good enough to put him in sole possession of third place at 16-under 272.
Two weeks after his collapse at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Martin Kaymer carded an 8-under 64 to vault into a tie for fourth place with Gary Stal (68), first-round leader Bernd Wiesberger (70), Andy Sullivan (70) and Morten Orum Madsen (70) at minus-15.
McIlroy began the day with a 4-shot lead and nobody got any closer until Noren got within three late in his round. Madsen, starting his final round four behind McIlroy, tripped to a triple-bogey at the first, extending McIlroy's lead to five. Madsen rebounded a bit with birdies on two, three, nine and 12 to put his name back in the mix, but he stumbled down the stretch with a pair of bogeys on 15 and 16 to finish well off the pace.
After starting with back-to-back pars, McIlroy rolled in his first birdie on No. 3. Lee Westwood was the next player to pull within four after birdies on one, three and five, but he too struggled down the stretch with a double- bogey, three bogeys and just two birdies over his final 13 holes for a 72 to finish at 14-under.
A Westwood bogey on six dropped him five back at minus-16, where he was joined by Noren, who birdied four of his first six holes on the day. Noren then traded a bogey on nine for a birdie on 10 to remain at 16-under, while McIlroy bogeyed No. 7, snapping a streak of 42 straight holes without a dropped shot and his lead was back to four.
While a number of others moved up and down the leaderboard throughout the round, Noren proved to be the most consistent of the chasers down the stretch and it seemed as if he was the only one in the field with a chance of catching McIlroy in the end.
A birdie on No. 10 moved McIlroy's advantage to five once again, which wound up being his biggest lead of the week. A long birdie putt by Madsen on 12 got him to within four once again, but it was the last gain of the day for him.
Sullivan briefly got into the mix with his fourth birdie of the day on No. 13, pulling him even with Madsen at minus-17. Noren joined them with a birdie on 15.
After just grazing the edge of the cup with his eagle effort on 13, McIlroy tapped in for birdie to get to minus-22 and extend his lead to five again.
While both Sullivan and Madsen fell off down the stretch with a couple bogeys each, Noren still stayed within striking distance. In fact, Noren finished up with back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18 to trim McIlroy's lead to three, the closest it was all day. Unfortunately for Noren, he simply ran out of holes.
McIlroy, playing it safe down the stretch, remained calm like a true No. 1 player in the world as he closed with five straight pars to claim his 10th career title on tour.
"I did what I needed to do today," said McIlroy. "I didn't play quite as well as the first three days, but I played a solid round of golf and did what I needed to do to keep my nose in front and be able to win."
While Gallacher never got quite close enough, he also had a strong final day. After making the turn at even par following a bogey on one and a birdie on six, Gallacher ripped off a trio of birdies from 11 before making a bogey on 14. A birdie on 17 proved to be big for Gallacher as it helped him finish alone in third.
NOTES: In seven starts here, McIlroy still has not broken 70 in the final round. He also carded a 70 on the last day when he won in 2009 ... Noren, a three-time winner on tour, hasn't won since the 2011 Nordea Masters. This is Noren's best finish since that victory ... Alvaro Quiros made a hole-in-one on the par-3 fourth hole Sunday ... Richie Ramsay withdrew from the final round due to an illness ... With the win, McIlroy earned 378,779 euros ... The desert swing is done as the European Tour heads to eastern Asia next week for the Maybank Malaysian Open, where Westwood ran away with a 7-shot victory last season.