Els saves his best for last in Dubai

 

Ernie Els won an unprecedented third Dubai Desert Classic in dramatic style today, holing an eagle putt from 18 feet at the last for a one-shot victory.

South Africa's world number three, who went into the final round a stroke behind leader Miguel Angel Jimenez, fired a four-under-par 68 to finish at 19-under 269 on a sweltering day at the Emirates Golf Club.

Jimenez, the European Tour's form player last year with five victories, had stretched his advantage to two with nine holes remaining but stumbled with a bogey-six at the 13th.

Although the Spaniard recovered with his fourth birdie of the day on 16, he wasted a chance to force a playoff when he missed an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-five 18th.

A closing 70 left him in a tie for second at 18 under with Britain's Stephen Dodd, who birdied three of the last nine holes on his way to a blemish-free 66.

Seven-times European number one Colin Montgomerie, boosted by a monster birdie putt from 45 feet at the par-three seventh, finished alone in fourth a further two shots back after a 69.

"Somebody had to win today and I've been close many times this year," said Els, who produced top-six finishes in his first five starts of the season. "It was great to finally get it my way today."
   
Els, Dubai champion in 1994 and 2002, did not make the most auspicious of starts. Having double-bogeyed the opening hole yesterday after four-putting from 20 feet, he dropped another shot there in the final round.

The big South African pulled his tee shot left behind trees, chipped back out on to the fairway and over-hit his approach into a back bunker before getting up and down for a bogey-five.

He immediately got back to 15 under by holing a birdie putt from six feet at the next hole, level with playing partner Jimenez who bogeyed after pulling his drive left into sand.

The Spaniard edged ahead again at the par-five third, after narrowly missing an eagle putt from 15 feet, before being caught by Els at the sixth, where the South African hit a superb approach to just six feet.

Els slipped back at the par-four eighth when he pulled another tee shot to the left and Jimenez, after hitting a superb approach to just five feet for birdie at the 468-yard ninth, took a two-stroke cushion into the closing stretch.

Although both players birdied the par-five 10th, the Spaniard was then caught by Els and Welshman Dodd when he bogeyed the par-five 13th to set up the European Tour event's thrilling finale.

Paul McGinley closed with a 68 for a 278 total while Damien McGrane was well off the pace after a 75 today for a 288.

Reuters