Nov 04, 2018: Justin Rose defeated Li Haotong in a play-off to become the first player to successfully defend a Rolex Series title at the Turkish Airlines Open. India’s Shubhankar Sharma finished his decent round of the tournament with a four-under-par 67 in the final round.
Sharma finished at T43 with five-under 279 total. He carded five birdies and a lone bogey to finish his best round.
The Englishman Rose, started the day three shots behind Li but led by two with four to play as he produced a typically consistent display at Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort.
An incredible eagle on the 15th moved Li back level but both men dropped a shot over the last three holes to take it to a play-off at 17 under.
A Li three-putt on the first trip back up the par-four last then handed Rose the victory that moves him back to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Belgian Thomas Detry and Spaniard Adrian Otaegui both signed for rounds of 65 to sit two shots out of the play-off at 15 under.
Dane Lucas Bjerregaard and German Martin Kaymer were at 14 under, a shot clear English pair Tommy Fleetwood and Danny Willett, and another Dane in Thorbjørn Olesen.
“It’s taken me 20 years to defend a title, I guess, so that’s great,” he said.
“I’ve had some pressure-packed Sundays of late, dare I say, coming away with consolation prizes in a way. World Number One after losing in a play-off, finishing fourth but winning the FedExCup. I was keenly aware I wanted to get back in the winner’s circle and it was good to get it done today.
“The fun thing is I still feel like there’s improvement to be had and that’s what I’m looking for. I’m really looking forward to the off-season to still work at a few things and still get better. I think that’s the exciting part, at 38, I still feel like there is improvement to be achieved.
“More Majors, that’s what I’m interested in, trying to chase down as many as I can.”
Li needed to get up and down to save par on the first but he could not repeat the feat on the second and his lead was cut to two shots.
Rose hit the green in two at the par-five seventh for a birdie and had a share of the lead when he put his approach to six feet on the tenth.
Li had been fighting hard to make eight pars in a row but he missed the green on the 11th and when a short missed putt followed, he was one behind.
Rose and Li both got up and down from the side of the green – with Rose getting some good fortune when he hit the pin – on the 12th for birdie, and the whole event had a different complexion when he put his tee-shot on the 14th to eight feet for a two-shot lead.
Li produced a perfect response, hitting an incredible second to two feet on the par-five 15th for an eagle and with Rose three-putting, they were tied at the top.
A Li approach to six feet on the next heaped the pressure on Rose but the 38 year old’s second was even closer and it was Rose who walked off the green with a birdie and a one-shot lead.
A three-putt on the 17th levelled things up again and both men missed putts from inside six feet on the last for a pair of closing bogeys.
“A tough day for me, honestly,” said Li. “The play-off, I saw that ball definitely go in. I think I played well the whole week but didn’t hole a few putts on the last and that was it.
“It’s a pretty good round, especially against Rosey who’s such a nice guy. Hopefully next time I can play better.”
Otaegui turned in 31 with birdies on the second, seventh and ninth – courtesy of a beautiful approach. He holed from ten feet on the 13th, put his tee-shot to three feet on the par-three next and then made the most of the 15th to get to six under for the day.
Detry turned in 32 with gains on the first and seventh but dropped a shot on the tenth before making five birdies in a row from the 12th.
Bjerregaard was level par after ten holes with three bogeys and three birdies before he made four in a row from the 11th, while two-time Major Champion Kaymer was bogey-free in a 66.
Fleetwood signed for a 69, Willett a 70, and Olesen a 71 to sit a shot ahead of South African Thomas Aiken, England’s Sam Horsfield, Frenchman Alexander Levy and Finn Tapio Pulkkanen.