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Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy fired a superb final round of 66 to win the Emirates Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club by a single shot from home favourite Adam Scott.

McIlroy began the final round four strokes behind Scott who was looking for a second Australian Open title. But the 24-year-old, former World Number 1 started quickly, playing the first eight holes in four-under-par to tie Scott at the top of the leaderboard.

The Australian made a birdie at the ninth to go one ahead again and he maintained his advantage through most of the back nine. It looked as though he would extend his lead on the 16th where he had a putt for eagle. But he took three to get down and McIlroy was let off the hook.

The pair came to the testing home hole still separated by just a shot. The young Northern Irishman found the putting surface in two and had a reasonable birdie chance, while Scott fired through the green into a difficult spot.

A playoff seemed the likely outcome but when Rory holed his birdie effort and Scott failed to get up-and-down, the two shot swing meant the title went to McIlroy.

“I guess it was just a pity how it ended at the last. He had a couple of chances to pull clear of me on 16 and 17,” he said.

“I thought I’d blown my chance on 16 hitting my second shot into the bunker and not making birdie there. Then at 17 Scotty went close to making birdie there and didn’t. I just stayed patient. I knew anything could happen on this golf course. If you just hit it into a tricky spot like Adam did at 18, these things can happen. Luckily I was able to make that putt when I needed it.”

It was a great end to a difficult year for McIlroy who spoke honestly about his struggles to find form in 2013.

“It’s frustrating because you know the level of golf that you can play, and you’re just not able to play to that level. You’re working hard and you’re trying to find the reasons why. You think you’ve found the reasons and then you haven’t. You try something else. It’s frustrating but I never lost belief. I never lost any of that,” he said.

“You know, golf’s a long career, I’m 24 years old and I get a little impatient at times. If I actually took a step back and looked at the bigger picture, it hasn’t been too bad a year. It’s obviously been made a lot better today with the win. It’s not like I plummeted off the face of the earth. I’m still six in the world. It’s not the level I feel I can play to, but I feel I’m getting back there.”

John Senden, Rhein Gibson
and Bryden MacPherson, who finished third and tied fourth respectively, earned spots at the Open Championship.

Emirates Australian Open
The Royal Sydney Golf Club,
Nov 28 – Dec 1, purse $1,250,000, par 72

1   Rory McIlroy (NIR)   69   65   70   66   270   
2   Adam Scott (Aus)      62   70   68   71   271   
3   John Senden (Aus)   73   68   70   66   277   
T4   Rhein Gibson (Aus)   71   70   69   69   279   
T4   Bryden Macpherson (Aus) 71   70   69   69   279   
T6   Jason Day (Aus)      70   74   66   70   280
T6   Matthew Jones (Aus)   68   68   72   72   280
T6   Mark Brown (Aus)   75   70   66   69   280   
9   Nathan Holman (Aus)   69   72   68   72   281   
T10   Ashley Hall (Aus)      71   71   68   72   282   
T10   Max McCardle (Aus)   68   71   69   74   282
T10   Leigh McKenchnie (Aus) 73   65   71   73   282
T10   Adam Bland (Aus)   69   72   70   71   282

Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage