Donaldson comes from behind to win in Abu Dhabi
For three days, it appeared likely that Justin Rose would pick up his 14th professional victory this week in Abu Dhabi. Rose carried a two-shot lead into Sunday’s final round over Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who’s a quality player in his own right, but certainly doesn’t have the credentials of Rose.
Rose carried a two-shot lead into Sunday, but never seemed to be in form. Every time he got something going with a birdie, a bogey seemed to be around the corner. Neither he or playing partner Thorbjorn Olesen could keep ahead of Donaldson, who made five birdies before approaching the par-5 18th. Donaldson missed a short four footer for par, leaving the door open for both Rose and Olesen to make birdie and get into a playoff. Both men would miss birdie putts, with Rose’s lipping out from eight feet. You can watch full highlights of Sunday’s final round here. Donaldson spoke after the round to EuropeanTour.com
“It’s pretty surreal really, I’ve played really good all week although I’ve got away with murder up the last,” said Donaldson.
“I thought one of them would hole if not both, but when both putts slipped by it was my week.
For Donaldson, it’s his second European Tour victory, with the first coming last July when he took the Irish Open. It also moves him inside the top-30 in the world rankings, which may surprise some considering his relatively low profile in North America. The win also makes him exempt for another couple of years on the European Tour into 2015, and includes invites to the WGC events this season. One more interesting tidbit about Donaldson: In the last four years, he’s entered the final round within five shots of the lead 17 times, and he’s ended up in a worse position at the end of the tournament in all but three of those events. This obviously helps that number a little bit.
Of course, Donaldson’s win will fade into the background considering what happened earlier in the week, so let’s try and make sense of what happened to Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
Tiger Woods’ two-shot penalty causes a missed cut
So, a quick primer for those who aren’t aware: Woods hit his tee shot on the fifth hole in Friday’s second round way right and into some bushes. When he approached, he was of the opinion that the ball was embedded, allowing him to take a free drop. There was no rules official on the hole at the time, so Woods called over Martin Kaymer, who agreed that it was embedded, and Woods proceeded to drop his ball, chip back into the fairway and make his bogey.
Two reporters, Rex Hoggard of Golf Channel and Alistair Tait of Golf Week, sought clarification on the ruling from senior rules official Andy McFee. McFee, who was unaware of the situation at the time, went to investigate and determined that Woods broke rule 25-2 which states that a player cannot get relief due to a ball plugged in sand. For clarity, here’s where Woods drove his ball. Knowing that Woods was near the cut line, McFee approached him after he teed off on the 11th, and let him know that he may be getting penalized two shots for what happened on the 5th. Woods went on a good run on the back, but a bogey on the 17th did him in, and he ended up missing the cut by one stroke after being assessed a two-stroke penalty.
First off, let’s get one thing out of the way: Woods should have known better, and called a rules official over to the site. Throughout all of Woods’ struggles in recent years, he’s never been known to have a brain fart on the course. In this case, it’s all on him to get the correct ruling. If he does, it’s a one-stroke penalty, and he’s still playing on the weekend. With that said, I still have a problem with how it played out.
The idea of people calling in rules violations has always been a contentious one in the game, but it usually involves spectators, not working journalists. Hoggard and Tait may have been seeking clarification, but whether they wanted to or not, they became part of the story. As far as I can tell, their job is to report on what happened, and this falls outside of that area. Non-rules officials calling penalties, especially ones like this where Woods, Kaymer and Rory McIlroy were of the opinion that the right thing was done, is wrong. What actually makes it worse is that Tait didn’t even mention in his story for Golf Week that he was involved in the decision. Like I said, it really falls on Woods to make the correct call here, but there’s still something wrong with how it played out. Let’s move on.
Rory McIlroy misses cut as well, switches out Nike putter
An interesting little subplot developed in Friday’s second round. After a dreadful opening round 75 where McIlroy made 31 putts, he decided to change putters because he didn’t feel comfortable with the weight of the Nike Method on the greens at Abu Dhabi GC. The switch to his old Scotty Cameron is interesting only because of McIlroy’s recent switch to Nike, and his refusal to answer a question about it prior to the tournament getting underway. At his over the top introduction by Nike this week, McIlroy was asked if he had the freedom to switch putters if he wasn’t comfortable, something that Woods has done in the past. McIlroy refused to answer the question, saying that he wasn’t going to go into the specifics of the contract.
This being the first week where McIlroy has been a Nike athlete, you’d have to think that Nike wasn’t overly thrilled when their new acquisition decided to drop their product after one poor round on the greens. The switch didn’t really help him though, as he still made 30 putts on Friday before missing the cut at 6-over par. For what it’s worth, McIlroy will be just fine, no need to worry about him and the Nike clubs.
Awful shot(s) of the week
Well, we might as well keep going on the Woods/McIlroy theme here. These both come from the opening round. First, Woods:
He would go on to make bogey after probably the worst shot of his professional career. I still like how a “stone-cold top” from Woods runs out almost 200 yards, whereas if I did one of those, I’d only be walking about 50 yards before hitting my second.
McIlroy tried to hit a cut here, and well, it didn’t cut.
Final notes about the event:
- It’s the first regular European Tour event where Woods has missed the cut.
- The missed cut by McIlroy in his opening event of the year is the first by a world number one in a season debut since Nick Faldo in 1994.
- Tough start to the season for Robert Rock. After finishing near the bottom of the heap last week, the defending champion had to pull out this week due to illness.
- On the flip side, Thorbjorn Olesen had a nice bounce back after struggling in his first event as a new Nike athlete. Expect big things for the Dane this season after this week’s T2.
- Englishman David Howell actually had a share of the lead in Sunday’s final round until he four-putted the 13th green. The worst part? It was from four feet out.
- Amateur Sohail Al Marzouki finished dead last this week after posting scores of 81 and 90 before missing the cut. The 20-year old is one year away from graduating with a degree in chemical engineering, and doesn’t appear to be too interested in the game, saying that it’s really only a hobby for him. Well, with scores like that, it’s a good thing that he’s close to getting that degree.