AFP: Sergio Garcia led from start to finish to hold off Open champion Henrik Stenson and win the $ 2.5 million Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday for his first European Tour victory in three years.
The Spaniard started the final day three shots ahead of the Swede and finished with the margin intact on 19-under-par 269 after they carded matching 69s.
It was Garcia’s first European Tour win since the 2014 Qatar Masters and will propel him up to ninth in the world rankings from his current 15th place. Denmark’s Lasse Jensen shot the lowest round of the final day, a seven-under-par 65, to climb to tied third place with England’s Tyrrell Hatton (67).
An opening-hole birdie, followed by another on the ninth, saw Garcia make the turn four ahead of Stenson and even though the Swede closed the gap to two shots with three birdies and a bogey in his next five holes, the 37-year-old Garcia rarely felt seriously threatened.
The key moment of the tournament came on the par-three 15th hole when Garcia hit a superb tee shot to two feet for a birdie, while Stenson overshot the green and settled for a bogey.
“I think at that time I was two ahead. He hit a good shot on the 15th, pretty much straight over the flag, just left a little bit, and too much club,” said Garcia.
“When he went over the green I knew that it was going to be very difficult to get up and down from there because I’ve been there in the past and it’s very, very tricky.”
Garcia, who is yet to win a major championship, added: “Really happy to get the win and it is always tough to win against someone like Henrik.”
Stenson, the 2007 Dubai champion, said that Garcia remained tantalisingly just out of reach.
“I was three shots back at the start of the day and Sergio made an early birdie so I was trailing all day. I was expecting that,” he said.
“I needed to come up with some really solid play and even though I didn’t quite play my best, I still managed to sneak a couple of birdies in there in the middle of the back nine and move closer.”
Stenson admitted that the 15th was the big moment.
“That’s obviously where it all kind of finished. At the same time, Sergio hit a lovely shot to about two and a half feet and it was pretty much game, set and match on the 15th green.”
England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick (67) and American Peter Uihlein were tied fifth at 276, while South African George Coetzee, who was in contention at one stage, finished tied seventh along with compatriot Brandon Stone.