Monday, February 24, 2014

All in a Day

Frenchman Victor Dubuisson was denied victory on his World Golf Championships debut by Australian Jason Day in the most thrilling final in the history of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Dubuisson edged out South African Ernie Els one up in the morning semi-final before taking on Day, who beat Rickie Fowler 3&2 in the other last-four clash. Day looked set for victory at two up with two to play, but Dubuisson fought back in sublime fashion with up-and-downs from sand on the 17th and 18th to win both holes.  The 23 year old kept the match alive with miraculous shots from cacti following errant approaches on the first two extra holes, saving par both times, and had a 20 foot putt to win on the 22nd, which came up agonisingly short. His short game was magnificent all day, but on the 23rd hole his chip from thick rough ran way past the flag, and Day’s par was enough to clinch the title and the US$1,530,000 first prize. Dubuisson’s performance drew comparisons with the late Seve Ballesteros for his never say die attitude and ability to conjure shots from nowhere, and he described the two chips from the desert as “amazing”. “I just played them like I had nothing to lose,” he said. “I’m happy but at the same time disappointed, because this afternoon I didn't play very well. I just battled, especially on the back nine. “I made some good shots, but Jason made some very good putts during the round. His birdie on the par five was amazing. And then he made a very important putt to win. “I tried to do my best. I tried to fight back. I made a good birdie on the 17th, but in a play-off, you never know how it can go. Next time I will be ready.”Dubuisson is virtually assured of his place on the European Ryder Cup team in September, achieving his main goal for the season. “I didn’t like to say it was my number one target, because that would have put extra pressure on me, but it was my number one target,” he added. “I'm very excited and this was very good preparation for me because now I know what I need to work on.” Day praised Dubuisson’s comeback, saying: “Coming down the stretch he was just unbelievable. I've never seen someone as young, apart from Jordan Spieth, and in the old days Tiger Woods, be so clutch, especially out of the cactus. “I kept shaking my head because it was so surprising. There were a couple of times where I thought he was absolutely dead. The tournament was mine. I just stuck through it and it was tough, but I'm glad I got it done.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gallacher rises to the Challenge

Stephen Gallacher has been named The 2014 European Tour Golfer of the Month for January after equalling a nine hole scoring record on the way to becoming the first player to successfully defend the Omega Dubai Desert Classic since the event began in 1989. Gallacher emulated José María Cañizares, Joakim Haeggman and Simon Khan by playing nine holes in nine under par – gathering seven birdies and an eagle to come home in 28 against the par of 37 in a third round 63 on the Emirates course and he completed a famous victory the following day with four birdies in his last eight holes for a 72 and a 16-under par total of 272. The 39-year-old Scotsman, who receives an engraved alms dish and a Jeroboam of Moët & Chandon champagne, is the second recipient in the 30th anniversary year of an award given to the European Tour member judged to have produced the outstanding performance each calendar month throughout the season. Gallacher, who was also tied second in the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic and is now 55 under par for his last 12 rounds on the Emirates course, said: “I am really pleased to be named The European Tour Golfer of the Month for January especially given some great performances by players both in South Africa and the Desert Swing events.  “To be picked ahead of the likes of Louis, Pablo and Sergio, who were all winners last month, means a lot to me and I am very grateful to be recognised in this way. The Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Emirates Golf Club is obviously a special event for me and to be given this award makes it an even more memorable month.” The European Tour Golfer of the Month Panel, comprising members of the Association of Golf Writers as well as commentators from television and radio, focus their attention on winning performances in The Race to Dubai on The European Tour International Schedule – South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen (Volvo Golf Champions) and Spaniards Pablo Larrazábal (Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship) and Sergio Garcia (Commercial Bank Qatar Masters) were also contenders – while also taking into account performances worldwide. Renton Laidlaw, commentator for The Golf Channel, said: “Louis Oosthuizen’s performance was remarkable, Pablo Larrazábal won with Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson breathing down his neck and Sergio Garcia produced a sparking finish, but Stephen Gallacher became the first player in 25 years to defend the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and he did it with two back nine’s to die for in the third and fourth round against arguably the strongest field of the month. Stephen is an excellent ambassador for The European Tour, he dug deep on the final day and he fully deserves to be The European Tour Golfer of the Month for January.” Iain Carter, Golf Correspondent of BBC Radio Five Live, said: “Louis Oosthuizen’s birdie-birdie finish for a successful title defence in Durban was thrilling stuff on a great course. Pablo Larrazábal showed how he has matured into a fine player with his Abu Dhabi victory and Sergio Garcia’s tenacity to win the play-off in Qatar was outstanding. But the vote goes to Stephen Gallacher. It was a huge week for Dubai golf which is at the heart of The European Tour and it was fitting the field contained such a stellar list of former champions. Stephen Gallacher was inspired in the company of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods and on the Saturday produced arguably the greatest ten hole sequence The Tour has seen with his birdie at nine being followed by a nine under par inward 28. It’s a win that could provide a Launchpad to a Ryder Cup debut in his native Scotland and in my opinion he is a very worthy European Tour Golfer of the Month for January.” Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez, winner of the December award, and Gallacher will now be considered with the next ten monthly winners for The 2014 European Tour Golfer of the Year Award which was won last year by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Gallacher seals victory in Dubai

Stephen Gallacher drew on all his powers of recovery to become the first man to successfully defend the Omega Dubai Desert Classic title as the curtain came down on The European Tour’s Desert Swing in dramatic fashion. That scenario had appeared wholly unlikely for much of a nerve-shredding final day in Dubai, as Gallacher imploded with four bogeys on the front nine to fritter away the two-shot overnight lead he had held over Rory McIlroy. But the Scot, who came home in 28 shots on the third day, again showed his liking for the back nine at Emirates GC with a quartet of birdies to finish on 16 under par and earn a one shot victory over Emiliano Grillo. Earlier in the day, the Argentine had set up a grandstand finish – quite literally – when his approach to the last hole hit the hospitality stand over the back of the green, and ricocheted onto the putting surface. Grillo made the most of his fortune by draining the eagle putt from 40 feet to set the clubhouse target on 15 under par, but Gallacher held his nerve with a par at the last to sign for a level par round of 72 and claim his second successive victory in the US$2.5 million event. The win rocketed Gallacher to seventh place in The Race to Dubai and into the top 40 of the Official Golf World Ranking, gaining the 39 year old a place in the Masters Tournament for the first time. He said: “It took everything I have, to be honest. It’s just been an unbelievable this week, and what a way to end it. I was quite fortunate that no one was running away with it today. Even though I didn’t play my best on the front nine I hung in there, and in the end it worked out lovely. “I’ve never been treated so well, starting with the Champions Challenge on Tuesday and then playing with Tiger and Rory on the first two days. It’s such a great tournament, definitely one of my favourites, and to win it on the 25th anniversary is special.” Grillo’s cheque for €202,176 was comfortably the biggest of his burgeoning European Tour career, and moved the Argentine an astonishing 102 places up The Race to Dubai to 17th. He said: “That second shot on the 18th went a little bit left and a little bit further than I wanted, but I got lucky with the bounce and then a bit lucky again with the big putt. “I’m quite happy with what I’ve done, and it was a good run overall. I left some putts out there, but the one on the 18th definitely made up for them. So I’m very happy.” Third place was shared between American Brooks Koepka and Frenchman Romain Wattel, who signed for respective rounds of 70 and 66 to finish on 14 under par.  McIlroy was undone with three bogeys in four holes after the turn, as the Northern Irishman closed with a round of 74 to fall back into a share of ninth place on 12 under par. World Number One Tiger Woods rattled off a trio of closing birdies to finish in a tie for 41st place on five under par.