Golf round-up: Great Scot Gallacher defends Dubai crown
The defending champion recovered from a shaky start to outmuscle the chasing pack - which included Rory McIlroy - on the final day of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic
At 39-years-old and having played for nearly two decades on the professional tour, Stephen Gallacher is probably best known for being the nephew of former European Ryder Cup captain, Bernard.
He’s yet to break inside the World’s top 50 and has just a handful of victories to his name. 12 months ago, he ended a nine-year barren run at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
To win it on the 25th anniversary, it was a good field with all the champions playing, makes it even more special
Since then, he’s enjoyed a slightly leaner period and on Sunday, rallied to produce a final round – as if he was a regular at the top of the leaderboard heading into the fourth day – of 72 to successfully defend the crown he won a year ago at the Emirates Golf Course.
It had started so wretchedly for Gallacher. He dropped four shots on the front nine as his two-shot overnight lead disappeared into the desert air. It allowed the chasing pack back into contention and presumably drained all the Scot’s confidence.
That was until the 11th hole when a speedy, down-hill putt from the edge of the green dropped. It was the turning point, the stimulant he needed to resurrect the round and become the first player to defend the prestigious Dubai Desert Classic. He duly obliged.
“I never do anything easy I’m afraid,” Gallacher said after lifting monstrous trophy once again. “What a day – my emotions are gone.
“I never really played the front nine that well all week. I don’t know, it was a carbon copy of yesterday apart from I holed a couple of putts for par and got a bit lucky yesterday but today I was in bushes and trees and stuff.
“I just kept saying to myself, ‘stay patient’. I played the back nine well and no one was really running away with it at the time.
“To win it on the 25th anniversary, it was a good field with all the champions playing, makes it even more special.”
Gallacher began the day with a two-shot lead over Rory McIlroy but soon found himself adrift of the summit having dropped shots at the opening two holes and further bogeys at six and eight. McIlroy was in prime position to take advantage of the Scot’s slip but the former world number one experienced a set-back of his own.
The Northern Irishman found the water short of the seventh green and although he scrambled for a bogey, McIlroy never recovered before posting a final round 74 to finish four shots adrift. Gallacher then made birdies on the 11th, 13th, 16th and 17th to finish on 16-under par.
It was enough to edge out Argentinian Emiliano Grillo, who was the clubhouse leader on 15-under. Grillo profited from a moment of fortune on the final hole when his second to the par five 18th rebounded off the grandstand back onto the putting surface, before he holed the 50-foot putt for eagle.
“Apart from the second shot to 18 everything was quite good,” Grillo, the World’s 268th ranked player, said. “The second shot went a little bit further than I wanted and got lucky, then I got lucky with the big putt.
“I am quite happy with how it went today, it was a good round overall. I left some putts out there but the one on the last gave me the ones I missed.”
Gallacher still had three holes to play however and holed from six feet on the 16th and a matter of inches on the 17th to give himself a one shot cushion playing the last before safely negotiating the tricky par five to land the title by a shot.
“I wish I could play it every week” he admitted.
The 39-year-old now moves inside the World’s top fifty the for the first time and qualifies for the WGC Match Play and US Open as a result. However, he has his sights firmly set on September’s Ryder Cup.
“You don’t want to leave it too late so hopefully I can build on it,” added Gallacher, who lives a matter of miles from the Gleneagles course. “I’m playing in all the events now and hopefully the Masters so that will be brilliant.”
American Brooks Koepka shared third place on 14-under, with McIlroy joint ninth. World number one Tiger Woods carded a final round of 71 to finish in a tie for 41st on six-under.