3 February 2013
DUBAI, Feb 3 – Stephen Gallacher needed to produce something special to track down an ominously charging Richard Sterne. Holding a stunning eagle on the 16th -- his fifth of the week -- did trick for the Scotsman, who, in the end, won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic with a healthy margin of three shots at Emirates Golf Club on Sunday.
A good three shots ahead of his playing partner from South Africa going into the final round, Gallacher closed with a 71 to go 22-under for the tournament, equaling the tournament's lowest 72-hole score recorded by Denmark's Thomas Bjorn when he beat Tiger Woods in 2001.
It was Scotsman's first win on the European Tour since the 2004 Alfred Dunhill Links, a gap of eight years and 116 days.
"I'm obviously delighted. It's taken a long time, but it's sweeter now. I'm maturing with age hopefully," he said after receiving the winner's trophy from Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in the presence of Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi.
Gallacher's victory margin, however, hardly reflects on the drama that unfolded on the final day. Back-to-back bogeys on the opening two holes by the Scotsman threw open the race, allowing Sterne to draw level when he chipped to two feet on the second for a birdie.
The lead kept changing hands as the round wore on, but stars, it seemed, were perfectly aligned for Gallacher who virtually settled the issue when he eagled the 16th, holing a sand wedge from 115 yards.
It was his fifth eagle of the week - the first came when he sank a seven iron at the sixth on day one - and when Sterne three-putted again the gap was suddenly four. And it was all over for Sterne.
"I've holed four shots this week but then again you have to do that these days to win," Gallacher said. "The scoring is so low and the players are so good that you need that little bit of magic," said Gallacher whose caddie Damie Moore celebrated his 42nd birthday on Sunday.
With the win, Gallacher moves into the top 60 of the world rankings and in a strong position to qualify for the World Golf Championships for the first time.
Felipe Aguilar of Chile (69) and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark (71) finished five shots back in a tie for third. Eighth-ranked Lee Westwood (68) and Marcus Fraser (67) of Australia were a further shot back in fifth.
With Gallacher and Sterne dropping shots early on, several players attempted to make a run - none more so than Westwood.
Nine shots out at the start of play, the Englishman had three birdies on the front nine including a chip-in on the 7th. He had two more to start the back nine but then hit a poor chip on the 12th for bogey. Westwood started rolling again with two more birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 and narrowly missed a third on the 16th when his approach rolled to within two feet but he missed the putt.
Westwood birdied the 17th to draw within three shots of Gallacher but bogeyed the last after his second shot hit the green and rolled back in the water.
"Overall, I played lovely and made a lot of birdies. There's not really a weakness in the game at the moment, so, yeah, looking forward to the season ahead," said Westwood.
… With this Win
• His second European Tour International Schedule victory in his 404th European Tour event.
• Moves to sixth in The Race to Dubai with €314,269.
• Moves into the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking from 111th and in a very good position to qualify for the WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship for the first time.
• His first European Tour victory since the 2004 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, a gap of eight years and 116 days.
• Played in a total of 210 European Tour events between victories.
• From those 210 events played he has been second on three occasions. The events were the 2006 British Masters, 2012 Maybank Malaysian Open and tied second in the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
• Victory comes in his 13th appearance in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
• Victory beats his previous best finish in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic of tied second in 2012. (Was also tied fourth on his debut in 2000 and tied tenth in 2011).
• Only the second Scot to win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and first since Colin Montgomerie in 1996.
• Becomes the second Scot to win on the 2013 European Tour International Schedule, following Scott Jamieson, who won the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa.
• His first European Tour victory where he has led going into the final round. (Made up three shots in the final round to win the 2004 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship).
• His winning total of 266 (-22) matches the tournament record in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, set by Thomas Björn in 2001.
• The second week in a row that the 54 hole leader had a three shot lead and went onto to win, following Chris Wood at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
• The 132nd Scottish victory in European Tour history.
• The 16th different Scot to record multiple European Tour victories.
• Gains a European Tour exemption until the end of 2015 season.
• Gains an exemption into the 2013 WGC – Bridgestone Invitational, 2013 WGC – HSBC Champions and 2014 Volvo Golf Champions.
• His third victory as a professional.
• Becomes the fourth former Challenge Tour Member to win on the 2013 European Tour. He would follow: Scott Jamieson (Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa), Louis Oosthuizen (Volvo Golf Champions) and Jamie Donaldson (Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship).
• Becomes the 311th European Tour victory by a former European Challenge Tour player. – Courtesy European Tour