Rose’s defeat of China’s Haotong Li on the first play-off hole returns him to the position of world number one
Justin Rose has returned for his second spell as world number one after capping an extraordinary run of golf with the first successful title defence of his career in the Turkish Airlines Open.
Rose defeated China’s Haotong Li on the first play-off hole after the pair had finished tied on 17 under par following a nervy finish at the Regnum Carya Resort.
The 38-year-old is now a combined 55 under par for his 12 rounds in the £5.4million event after finishing third on his debut in 2013, while he also won its precursor – an eight-man matchplay competition – in Antalya in 2012.
Rose spent two weeks as world number one earlier this season after losing out to Keegan Bradley in a play-off for the BMW Championship, but had been determined to get back to the summit in style with a second consecutive victory in Turkey.
“It’s taken me 20 years to defend a title so that’s great,” admitted Rose, who has won five times and recorded 24 top-10 finishes in his last 31 events.
“Maybe I haven’t won enough tournaments to give myself enough opportunities to defend, but to do it back-to-back is very special.
“I was very keenly aware of losing the play-off to Keegan and my play-off record of late hasn’t been great. I really wanted to buck that trend. Being world number one doesn’t make you one under par on the first tee the next time you play, but it’s something to be proud of for sure.
“I’m sure we’ll re-toast getting to number one and this time we have some silverware. Last time it was muted because I was still so mad at not winning the tournament, but this time I have that double winning feeling so it might be a bit more fun this time.”
A poor finish to Saturday’s third round had left Rose three behind Li at the start of the day, but a front nine of 33 and a birdie on the 10th, which he had bogeyed in the previous two rounds, was enough for a share of the lead.
Li then bogeyed the 11th and Rose doubled his lead with a birdie on the 14th but Li responded with a stunning approach to the par-five 15th to set up a tap-in eagle as Rose three-putted from long range for par.
Li looked like having the chance to move in front after an excellent approach to the 16th too, but Rose produced a better one and holed from four feet after the world number 50 missed from twice the distance.
Rose’s advantage was short-lived as he three-putted the 17th and Li appeared to have the upper hand on 18 when he found the green in regulation after Rose’s approach came up short in a greenside bunker.
However, it was Li’s turn to three-putt from long range and Rose was left with a putt for the win after a superb bunker shot, only to miss from four feet.
The players returned to the 18th for sudden-death and after Rose missed from 15 feet for birdie, Li amazingly three-putted from just nine feet to gift his opponent the title.
“There were moments out there where it looked like both of us weren’t holding our nerve very well,” Rose admitted. “The 18th green is a treacherous one and it took a couple of scalps there at the end.
“And obviously I do have to spare a thought for Haotong. That’s a tough way to finish. He’s hit a positive putt to try and win and that green is very tough.”
Li, who held off Rory McIlroy to win the Dubai Desert Classic in January, added: “It’s a tough day for me. I think I played well the whole week, but didn’t hole a few putts on the last and that was it.”