Gallacher defends title in Dubai

Stephen Gallacher kisses the trophy after winning the 2014 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Stephen Gallacher kisses the trophy after winning the 2014 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Stephen Gallacher was able to hold off a bevy of challengers in Sunday’s final round to repeat as the Omega Dubai Desert Classic winner.

What Happened

After a stunning 9-under par back nine 28 on Saturday, Gallacher vaulted himself into the lead, two strokes ahead of Rory McIlroy. At the start of the day though, Gallacher looked awful in just about every facet of the game, as he went out in 39 with four bogeys and five pars on the front nine. That obviously opened the door for McIlroy and others, and they took advantage. Several players, including McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Thorbjorn Olesen and Mikko Ilonen, all had at least a share of the lead at one point on Sunday, thanks in large part to the front nine implosion by Gallacher where he couldn’t seem to find anything remotely resembling a fairway from the tee.

Gallacher got it together on the back nine though, starting with a birdie on the par-3 11th, and while McIlroy made birdie as well, he was about to make a pair of bogeys, including one on the par-5 13th where he was the only one who finished in the top-20 to drop a shot. He got a bit of a bad break by basically having his ball plug in a waste area, but hey, that’s what can happen when you’re as wayward as he was. Even with McIlroy essentially out of the picture, Gallacher still had some bullets to dodge, but most of the players just couldn’t make enough birdies coming home to really put any pressure on the leader. Enter Emiliano Grillo.

The Argentinian had a solid round of 4-under par going, getting to 13-under for the tournament as he approached the par-5 18th tee. After hitting a safe second into the green, Grillo had a long eagle attempt to get to 15-under and force Gallacher to play well down the stretch.

02.02.14 grillo bomb

Grillo was now the clubhouse leader at 15-under par after a round of 6-under par 66. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t enough though, as Gallacher was able to make a birdie on the par-3 17th to regain his one shot lead and after a par on the finale, Gallacher was able to hang on to the win by one stroke.

Final Leaderboard

  • 1. Stephen Gallacher -16 (72)
  • 2. Emiliano Grillo -15 (66)
  • T3. Brooks Koepka -14 (70)
  • T3. Romain Wattel -14 (66)
  • T3. Mikko Ilonen -14 (64)

What The Win Means For Gallacher

Gallacher becomes the first player to defend his title in the 25-year history of the event, and he’ll be pretty much guaranteed a spot in the WGC-Match Play later this month with his move provisionally into 37th place in the Official World Golf Rankings.

He said after the round today that his goal for the year was to crack into the top-50 for the first time in his career, and he’s done that already, so as long as he doesn’t play horribly for the rest of the year, he’ll achieve that goal for an entire season. The win, you’d think, also pretty much assures him of a spot on the European Ryder Cup team.

McIlroy’s final round

He’s not going to feel this way right now, but McIlroy really shouldn’t feel too bad about the way the day ended for him. It was a bad four hole stretch that killed him, and that shouldn’t be enough to outweigh the rest of the week for him, including that brilliant opening round 63 where he looked pretty much unbeatable. No, he hasn’t won yet in 2014, but his two tournaments along with the Australian Open at the end of 2013 should be enough to convince people that he’s not going away anytime soon and that whatever happened to him for most of 2013 is in the past.

Tiger’s week

Tiger just didn’t have it this week, finishing in a tie for 41st, and you could tell even by watching that opening round where he was 4-under par. His short game was masking everything that he was doing poorly off the tee and even with his irons, and it really made me think of Seve Ballesteros when I was watching it. For whatever reason, Tiger just can’t seem to figure out the long clubs right now, but then again, that’s been happening for much of the last two or three years, so we really shouldn’t be surprised.

As I mentioned last week, it’s still early and I still think that he’s just a little rusty from not doing much over the last two months. If he’s still winless by the time Augusta rolls around, then maybe there’s cause for concern. Until that happens, don’t put too much stock in this at all. One thing did catch my though in the opening round. Look at this graphic of how far behind McIlroy and Gallacher he was because he took 3-wood off of the tee.

tiger 3 wood

Now, he did make birdie on the hole mostly because of a good chip and a great putt, but having 269 yards into a hole is not the best recipe for success and it puts a ton of pressure on his admittedly sublime short game for him to pull off good scores. I know he’s playing for position, but it also looks like at points that he’s playing scared with the driver.

That’s not a good shot

Danny Willett is from England, and you’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the guy. He’s been a solid European Tour player for some time now, but he’s been dealing with some injury concerns and was actually close to not playing this year because of them. It’s good to see him back on the course, but this, this is not where your ball is supposed to go.

02.01.14 willett grandstand

Other notes

  • Other notable finishes: Thorbjorn Olesen (T5), Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey (T9), Thomas Bjorn and Francesco Molinari (T13), Jamie Donaldson (T20), Joost Luiten (T23), Henrik Stenson (T29), Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thongchai Jaidee, Pablo Larrazabal and Tiger Woods (T41), Fred Couples, Alvaro Quiros and Paul Lawrie (T54).
  • Notables to miss the cut: Ross Fisher, Shane Lowry, Peter Uihlein, John Daly, Branden Grace, Peter Hanson, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Matteo Manassero.
  • Saw some of the golf media tweeting and complaining that Caroline Wozniacki was allowed inside the ropes on Sunday to watch Rory’s final round. I know that this is really only supposed to be the area for players, caddies, officials and TV, but does anyone really think this is such a big deal? It’s not like she’s going to give him some kind of an advantage by standing two feet closer to the action than she would have otherwise.
  • Henrik Stenson’s third round 75 came with some of the worst putting I’ve ever seen by a professional, but it also included some vicious lip outs that really could have gone in. The worst offender?

02.01.14 stenson 3 putt

That third putt very easily could have missed too. Been there, Henrik.

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