Stephen Gallacher defends Dubai title
Rory McIlroy four off the pace after a 74 in the fourth round, Damien McGrane 10 under
Rory McIlroy plays his tee shot at the par 3, fourth hole during the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
Stephen Gallacher from Scotland became the first player to win back-to-back Dubai Desert Classic s on Sunday. Photograph: Caren Firouz/Reuters
Stephen Gallacher recovered from a nightmare start to become the first player to successfully defend the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday as Rory McIlroy slumped to closing round of 74 to finish four behind the Scot.
Gallacher is now eyeing a US Masters and Ryder Cup debut after recovering from a nightmare start to the final round to prevail.
Gallacher began the day with a two-shot lead over playing partner McIlroy, but bogeyed the first two holes and dropped further shots on the sixth and eighth to fall two off the pace.
However, the 39-year-old Scot found the back nine at Emirates Golf Club very much to his liking for the second day in succession, making birdies on the 11th, 13th, 16th and 17th to finish 16 under par after a closing 72.
It was nothing like as spectacular as the seven birdies and an eagle he produced to cover the same stretch in just 28 shots on Saturday, but was enough to win by one shot from Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo.
“I think it took everything I have to be honest,” said Gallacher, who was embraced by his children Jack and Ellie after sealing victory with a par on the 18th. “After the start, it was the plague of the front nine again but I just tried to build on yesterday’s performance and stay patient.
“I was quite fortunate that no-one was running away with it. I knew I was only a couple back with three par fives (to play) and the 17th you can go for, so I just tried to hit one shot at a time as yesterday.
“When I holed the putt on 11 — after not making a birdie on 10 — I was level with seven to go and I thought I would have taken that at the start anyway; then I had three birdies from then on in.
“I knew a five (on the 18th) was going to win it. It’s the only time I’ve had backspin all week and it nearly came back into the water, but it’s done now and I am delighted. To do it in the 25th year of the event is even more special.”
Gallacher’s recent record in the event now reads 10th, 2nd, 1st, 1st — “I wish I could play it every week” he admitted — and his third European Tour victory lifts him from 67th in the world rankings to inside the top 40.
If he can maintain that position until the end of March he will earn a first invite to the US Masters at Augusta, while the first prize of €303,000 lifted him to seventh in the Race to Dubai and 14th in the European Ryder Cup points list.
“That (world’s top 50) was my goal at the start of the year,” Gallacher added on Sky Sports. “I knew I was only a win away from getting into all the events like the WGC Match Play and the US Open and if you have aspirations of getting into the Ryder Cup you have got to be in them, so I am delighted with that.”