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McIlroy targets improvement after debut win

Rory McIlroy is aiming to take his game to the next level after claiming a thrilling maiden professional victory at the Dubai Desert Classic today.

The 19-year-old held his nerve to hole a three-foot putt for par at the last, sealing a final-round two-under-par 70 to finish one shot ahead of Justin Rose, who could have forced a play-off but missed a birdie putt at 18 and had to settle for a 67.

McIlroy's six-shot lead at the start of today had been whittled down to one by the time the Northern Irishman headed up the final fairway, but he kept his composure for the vital putt to secure the win.

Afterwards he was delighted to have risen 15 places to 14th in the world rankings and to second in the Race to Dubai, and he wants to continue his recent run of form in America where he will play four events before April's Masters.

"This win has definitely moved me up a step and I just want to keep getting better and better," said McIlroy.

"Your success only makes you more motivated to do better. I have become a very good player, but I still have a lot of years to progress and I just want to keep improving and hopefully one day I will be able to compete with Tiger (Woods).

"I will have to reassess my goals, but I will just go out every week and try and get myself into contention going into the back nine on Sunday and that's my goal every week."

McIlroy came close to his maiden win last year when he suffered play-off defeats at the European Masters and Hong Kong Open and it appeared to be again slipping through his young hands as five consecutive birdies around the turn were cancelled out by three straight bogeys on the back nine.

He set pulses racing as he overhit his approach to the final green into a back bunker, but he chipped out to three feet - a shot he rates as the best from the sand he has ever played.

And after watching 2007 Order of Merit winner Rose miss a 15-foot putt which would have forced a play-off, McIlroy converted his par to claim the biggest cheque of his career.

"You watch it on TV and you see guys coming down the stretch with a four- or five-shot lead and you think it's easy, but it's not," he added.

"You still have to play the shots and hole the putts. I got myself into a great position in the middle of the back nine, but Justin fought back. But it was nice to hold it together on the last and get a great up and down.

"It's definitely a burden off my shoulders.

"If I hadn't won having a six-shot lead it would have been pretty hard to take and pretty hard to come back from. But I was able to scrape in at the end. It's not about how many but how in the end.

"All these situations I have put myself in is all experience and I am gathering them all in. Obviously all the experiences I have had in the past helped me today and hopefully this experience will help me in the future."

All but three of the top 15 places were taken by Europeans, with Henrik Stenson third and Martin Kaymer, Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson tied for fourth.

Miguel Angel Jimenez finished joint seventh ahead of world number two Sergio Garcia, while new Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie was 13th alongside Alvaro Quiros and Ross Fisher.

Belfast Telegraph


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