Dubai (UAE): Defending champion and new World Number Two Henrik Stenson held his nerve on a dramatic final day to retain his crown and win the US$8 million DP World Tour Championship, the grand finale of The European Tour’s Race to Dubai, at the Earth course, Jumeirah Golf Estates.
The 38-year-old Swede finished with back-to-back birdies to come home with a two under par 70, a total of 16 under 272 and a two-shot victory from Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, Justin Rose of England and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy who tied on 14 under 274. Ireland’s Shane Lowry finished fifth 13 under 273.
“To successfully defend a title for the first time in my career is great but to do so at this fantastic tournament, against many of the best players in the world and in a city that was my home for ten years is extra special,” said Stenson, after a win that sees him close in on McIlroy at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Although Stenson and co-overnight leader Rafael Cabrera-Bello went into the final day with a three-shot lead, the Swede moved two shots ahead by the fifth and looked set to continue his imperious form over the Greg Norman-designed course. But a double bogey on the 11th saw Stenson slip back and he faced a tough battle over the last few holes as first McIlroy then Rose and Dubuisson closed out on -14.
Cabrera-Bello’s chances of lifting the title sunk without trace when the Spaniard found water and double bogies on both the 16th and 17th leaving Stenson with just the leaderboard to play as he closed in on yet another DP World Tour Championship. The turning point was a sublime six iron tee shot to nine inches from 210 yards on the par three 17th that gave him a tap-in birdie and a one-shot advantage coming up the last.
“I didn’t play my best and just hung in there for a while waiting for something to happen,” added Stenson, who collected the trophy from Mohammed Sharaf, Group CEO of DP World and George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour. “After I made double bogey on the 11th, I had to dig deep on 12 – another dropped shot there and I wouldn’t have been able to compete over the closing stretch.
“The tee shot on the 17th pretty much won it for me – it was my shot of the week – as it’s always good to go up the 18th with a one-shot cushion. But I was still nervous. Any player who says he isn’t nervous in that position is lying. It’s an intimidating hole so I was delighted to hit my third from around 125 yards to six feet and complete the job with a birdie.”
For long periods, it looked as if a play-off was the most likely scenario with Rose firing in three birdies on the closing five holes for a three under 69, Dubuisson finishing with a birdie for four under 68 and McIlroy also shooting 68 by saving par on the last, despite bouncing off rocks with his tee shot and crashing into the spectator grandstand with his second.
However, it was Stenson’s cool finish that ensured the DP World Tour Championship had its first repeat winner leaving McIlroy content as Race to Dubai champion for the second time in three years.
“I’m proud of the way I played this week but I don’t think I played well enough to win the tournament,” admitted the World and European Number One, who received The Race to Dubai trophy from Yousuf Kazim, General Manager of Jumeirah Golf Estates and Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council.
“Nobody looked like they were going to grab the tournament by the scruff of the neck and run with it but the way Henrik played those final two holes, he deserved to win. But it has been a fantastic week in a city that is almost a second home to me and a great end to a wonderful season.”