SERGIO GARCIA GOES WIRE-TO-WIRE TO WIN DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC
Sergio Garcia claimed his 12th European Tour title as he completed an utterly dominant wire-to-wire win at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The Spaniard set the tone with an opening 65 at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday and never looked back, finishing with a bogey-free 69 to get to 19 under and beat Open champion Henrik Stenson by three shots.
Garcia entered the final round with a three-shot lead and while back-to-back birdies from Stenson on the 13th and 14th applied some pressure, the 37 year old produced a stunning tee-shot on the 15th and a brilliant up-and-down on the next to ease to victory.
Englishman Tyrrell Hatton and Dane Lasse Jensen were then at 14 under, two shots clear of Matthew Fitzpatrick and Peter Uihlein.
Garcia celebrated his 250th European Tour appearance in some style, claiming his first win since the 2014 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and potentially moving back into the top ten of the Official World Golf Ranking.
The victory continued Spain’s fine record in the Dubai Desert Classic as Garcia became the sixth Spanish winner following the great Seve Ballesteros, José María Olazábal, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, Alvaro Quiros and Rafa Cabrera Bello.
“I’m very happy to play the way I played,” he said. “The way I handled some of the key moments and to beat Henrik, we all now how great a player he is.”
“The eighth was very, very big because it was the worst drive I hit all week, unfortunately, but it was a massive save and then I birdied nine which was great.
“The 16th was important but I think 15 was more important. He was coming after two birdies and I hit a really, really good shot. To be able to hit it to a couple of feet and get four clear was massive.”
“Even on the 18th with a four-shot lead I knew that I needed to hit a good third shot because you can mess it up a little bit there if you’re not careful. Henrik is always there so you’ve got to stay calm and collected with him.”
“It’s a great start to the year so we’re going to try to keep going the same way.”
Garcia got off to the perfect start, putting his approach to the first to inside six feet and rolling it home to extend his lead.
Stenson made a fantastic birdie after finding trouble off the tee on the sixth, putting an approach to 15-feet and rolling in the putt and while Garcia was in worse trouble on the eighth after finding the desert, he found his ball and made par from the sand.
He carried that momentum to the ninth and an excellent approach brought a birdie and restored his four-shot lead at the turn.
Stenson holed an 18-footer on the tenth for birdie and while he bogeyed the 12th, he took advantage of the par five next and then put an approach to eight feet on the 14th to sit two back with four to play.
Garcia hit back in stunning fashion, putting his tee-shot on the 15th to two feet while Stenson bogeyed, and when he produced a brilliant bump-and-run to save par on the 16th, Stenson’s birdie on the last only served to narrow the gap.
Jensen had missed his first four cuts of the season but he produced an impressive back nine in signing for a 65 and claiming his second European Tour top three.
The 32 year old turned in 33 before a birdie on the 11th was followed by an eagle on the 13th and he finished birdie-birdie.
Hatton made it seven top 25s in a row with a closing 67 that contained six birdies and a bogey.
Fellow Englishman Fitzpatrick also signed for a 67 despite a double-bogey on the eighth, while American Uihlein carded a closing 69.
South African duo George Coetzee and Brandon Stone were at 11 under, a shot clear of two-time champion Stephen Gallacher and Swede Magnus A Carlsson.