It’s been over three years in the waiting, but Sergio Garcia once again heads the European Tour leader board this week. The affable Spaniard secured his long overdue 12th European Tour title in a stormy affair at the Emirates Golf Club, Dubai and expressed his joy saying “Hopefully it will be the beginning of a great year!”
Starting the week in blistering fashion, the 37-year-old holed six birdies and an eagle to lead the pack on after day one by a single score and remained in pole position to start the final day three shots clear of his rivals. Henrik Stenson mounted a spirited attack on the lead, shooting back-to-back birdies on 13th and 14th, but a stunning tee-shot from Garcia at the 15th (leaving him a manageable two-footer) unsettled the Swede who could only manage a bogey under the pressure of Garcia’s grip on the top spot. In fact, Garcia managed a bogey-free three-under-par 69 to finish on 19 under, three shots ahead of Open champion Henrik Stenson.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Garcia though, as he fought hard to fend off the pack and maintain his own good form. Never-more-so than when the Spaniard acquainted himself a little too much to the Dubai desert from the tee on the eighth. Working hard, he proved his mettle and made par despite the sandy setback. “It was tough,” explained Garcia, “even without playing his best, he [Stenson] is still always there. I am very happy with the way I played and the way I handled key moments.”
The win at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic sees Garcia back into the top 10 in the world (from 15th) and the winner was more than delighted with his overall performance this week stating, “I stayed aggressive and positive. To be back inside the world’s top 10 is great.”
England’s Tyrrell Hatton also placed well in a frantic finale, as he was tied for third on 14 under after finishing the final round with an impressive five-under (67). Some great golf played again on the European Tour and its especially pleasing to see fans’ favourite, and one of ours, find form and claim a well-deserved title. Keep it up Serg!
Meanwhile on the PGA Tour, another play-off as Hideki Matsuyama and Webb Simpson shared the lead in regulation holes at -17 under. Simpson came from nowhere to go into the clubhouse still in contention and Matsuyama was millimetres away from securing the title on the 18th hole but alas the ball decided not to rotate to make the drop. So, the play-off went into a replay of the 18th with neither player gaining an advantage, so they took it to the tenth. With Simpson having the advantage over the Japanese player on two of the holes but it was still not to be, so on they went to play the 17th. The American went for gold and used the driver to hit the green, however a nasty position on the fringe with a ridiculously difficult second shot allowed Matsuyama to make a more cautious yet more advantageous approach off the tee. Whilst Simpson made a valiant effort to make par, just brushing the lip but not dropping in, it was Matsuyama who held his cool and saw his tactical play secure the spoils in Arizona. Well played to both players a spectacle of golf once again, particularly to Hideki Matsuyama for taking the title and establishing himself as the best-ever Japanese pro on the PGA Tour and the leader of the FedEx board into the bargain.
Shane Lowry gets a quick mention for handing out cans of the ‘black stuff’ to spectators at the Phoenix Open in Arizona – the Irishman might not be a golfing winner this week but is definitely a big hit with our staff writer!
This week seems to be the curse of the 41-year-old comeback kids as one had to withdraw from competition and the other bogeys his way out of contention. Sadly, the return of Tiger Woods was cut short by a back spasm, and although there are no definite medical reports confirmed, it is not looking good for the all-time great. We all wish you well. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the 41-year-old club as, in the wake of Tiger’s painful exit, another returning ‘veteran’ was making a mark. The Ryder Cup ‘Postman’, Ian Poulter, lost out to most of 2016 with a foot injury but was showing signs of past glories as he fought into a third-place overnight position, going into the final day in the Dubai Desert Classic. Unfortunately, the Englishman could not deliver on this occasion as he saw his glimpse of victory disappear into the picturesque horizon. On a cruel combination of poor play and bad luck, Poulter carded six bogeys in a six-hole stretch in the back nine of his round. The nightmare run saw the man from Hitchen finish four-over par on 76 and to drop back to seven under from his 11-under starting point. Keep on fighting Poults and hopefully we’ll see more of your entertaining play in the coming weeks.
It was also a bad week for the decision makers for the European Tour as they made an executive choice to postpone play as winds were becoming dangerous on and around the course in Dubai. As half the players had already had to contend with the blustery conditions, the powers-that-be called a halt to proceedings as the storm caused havoc. Those that had faced and played through the gales were certainly not happy with the call, with some players going so far as to claim favouritism and unfairness. Sometimes you can’t please everyone or anyone!