Donaldson secures Abu Dhabi triumph
Golf:Welshman Jamie Donaldson, the man who recently sent Robert Rock a picture of his US Masters invitation just to wind him up, has now succeeded him as winner of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The 37-year-old, whose only previous European Tour success came on his 255th start at the Irish Open last July, won the €337,000 first prize by a stroke when long-time leader Justin Rose lipped out on the final green from 12 feet.
Minutes earlier Donaldson had three-putted for a bogey six, missing from under five feet, but it did not matter.
Against a field that had earlier in the week included world top two Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who both missed the halfway cut, he could hardly believe what had just happened.
“I played the pro-am on Wednesday and thought the course was too difficult and I had no chance,” Donaldson said. “I thought if I could get a decent finish I would be chuffed. To be holding this trophy is just mad.”
Rose, whose last trip to the Middle East in November saw him denied by McIlroy in Dubai, shared second place this time with Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, whose own 18 foot attempt to force a play-off ran just wide.
The biggest sympathy vote, though, went to Rose’s fellow Englishman David Howell.
Down at 258th in the world, he was 569th less than three years ago, the former world number nine charged into the lead with five birdies in the first 10 holes.
But he bogeyed the short 12th, then on the next splashed out of sand to four feet and, incredibly, four-putted from there for a triple-bogey seven.
Howell had to be content with a tie for sixth place when a first victory for seven years would have taken him comfortably back into the game’s top 100.
Donaldson, who earned his Masters spot by climbing into the top 50 by the end of last year, will be around 30th when the new rankings are published tomorrow.
“It’s pretty surreal really and I got away with murder there at the last,” he added. “The wait was nerve-wracking. I thought one of them would hole, if not both.”
The six was Donaldson’s only dropped shot of the day. He had resumed two behind Rose, but birdied the first, ninth and 11th and then, following Howell’s horror show, sank putts of 18 and 15 feet on the 14th and 15th to go two ahead.
His 68 gave him a 14-under-par total of 274, one better than his close friend Robert Rock managed a year ago when he beat McIlroy by one and Woods by two.
As for that Masters invite photo being sent to Rock, Donaldson said: “It’s just banter. He was ill in the week and said ‘Get my trophy back’.”
Holding it up he added: “Here you are Rocky!”
Rose had led from his opening 67, but managed only a closing 71. There were three back-nine birdies in that, but also bogeys at the 11th and 17th after he missed both greens.
Pádraig Harrington (69) and Peter Lawrie (70) finished in a tie for 23rd position on five under. Gareth Maybin carded a 73 to finish on two under, while fellow Ulsterman Michael Hoey closed with a 71 for two over.