Danny Willett claims dramatic victory in Dubai

Win puts danny Willett on the brink of the world's Top 10

Win puts danny Willett on the brink of the world’s Top 10

England’s Danny Willett held his nerve to win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in thrilling fashion to take a massive step towards a place in the world’s top 10.

Willett holed from 15 feet for a birdie on the 18th to card a closing 69 and finish 19 under par, one shot ahead of compatriot Andy Sullivan and playing partner Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

Sullivan had also birdied the last in the group ahead to temporarily join Willett at the top of the leaderboard, before Cabrera-Bello narrowly missed a long eagle attempt on 18 and tapped in for birdie to also finish 18 under.

Spain's Alvaro Quiros and Korea's Byeong Hun An shared fourth place on 16 under after matching rounds of 65, with defending champion Rory McIlroy another shot back alongside Henrik Stenson after also closing with a 65.

Willett had lost his overnight lead after a bogey on the second, but quickly found himself three in front thanks to three birdies in four holes from the fourth.

A bogey on the ninth allowed the chasing pack to close the gap, with Sullivan carding his third birdie of the day on the ninth to get within a shot, but Willett crucially saved par from a greenside bunker on the 11th and then doubled his lead on the next, holing from five feet for birdie on one of the hardest holes on the course.

A birdie on the par-five 13th took Willett three clear with just five holes to play, but the gap was suddenly cut to a single shot once more when Sullivan birdied the 15th to set up a birdie and Willett three-putted from just short of the green on the 14th.

Sullivan had saved par on the 16th after a wild drive in the trees and birdied the last to share the lead, but Willett left himself a slightly longer putt on almost exactly the same line and calmly holed for his fourth European Tour title.

The 28-year-old moves from 20th in the rankings to a provisional career-high of 12th, with the positions set to be confirmed after the conclusion of the Waste Management Phoenix Open on the PGA Tour.

Rory McIlroy enjoys "decent" start at Dubai Desert Classic

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Defending champion Rory McIlroy was satisfied with his opening round in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, carding a four-under 68 after recovering from a poor start thanks to some characteristic flashes of brilliance.

Starting on the back nine at Emirates Golf Club, McIlroy had to hole from 15 feet for bogey on the 10th after finding a greenside bunker with his approach and watching his recovery attempt roll off the green and back to his feet.

The world number two also did well to scramble a bogey on the second after hooking his tee shot deep into the trees and failing to find the fairway with his second shot, but fired six birdies to finish four under par, two behind clubhouse leader Alex Noren of Sweden.

"I thought I did well considering the start and some of the shots I hit throughout the round," McIlroy told Sky Sports.

"I felt like 68 was probably a fair reflection of how I played.

"It wasn't the best way to start, bogeying a par five, and the bogey I made on the second hole, which is a birdie hole out here… but to bounce back and to birdie some of the tougher holes on the course, I was really pleased with that. And when I got myself out of position I was able to get back in play and make my pars.

"I don't feel I could have really gone any lower than that but at the same time I gave myself enough chances to make some birdies. All in all it was a decent day, a decent score, especially looking at the conditions this afternoon; it looks like it's going to be quite tricky out there."

McIlroy started his recovery on the par-five 13th, the four-time major winner cutting his approach from 219 yards around a palm tree on the edge of the fairway and finishing just 10 feet from the hole.

The 26-year-old missed the eagle putt but tapped in for birdie and holed from eight feet for another on the next before completing the back nine in remarkable style.

McIlroy's 329-yard drive ran through the dogleg and into a water hazard, but after taking a penalty drop he fired a long iron to seven feet and calmly holed for birdie.

A bogey on the second was followed by birdies on the third, fifth and sixth, the latter coming from a matter of millimetres after a brilliant approach from 200 yards stopped on the edge of the hole.

Noren, who was joint second behind McIlroy 12 months ago, carded six birdies in a flawless 66 to enjoy a one-shot lead over playing partner Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Australia's Brett Rumford and South Africa's Trevor Fisher Jnr.

Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke had held the outright lead after 13 holes, but the former Open champion played the remaining five in five over to card a disappointing 71.

Fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell carded a respectable 69 to put him tied from 11th place on the leaderboard.

Fellow Swede Peter Hanson emerged as the biggest threat to Noren's lead, the former Ryder Cup player starting on the back nine and racing to the turn in 32 thanks to five birdies and no bogeys.

Spain's Alvaro Quiros, who has won two of his six European Tour titles in Dubai, was a shot further back with three holes remaining after two birdies and an eagle on the 10th, with three-time champion Ernie Els on two under after 11.