Grillo makes a name for himself in Dubai with drama on 18

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Turning up the heat: Grillo almost clinched the title with a miraculous 18th.

What turned out to be a familiar ending to the Dubai Desert Classic could have been so different.

Stephen Gallacher took home the trophy, but for a while it looked like it might go to the virtually-unknown Argentine Emiliano Grillo.

The 21-year-old temporarily stole the lead after an incredible eagle on the final hole, before Gallacher kept his nerve and wrapped things up.

Sitting on 13-under after 17 holes, Grillo looked done for when his second shot on the par-5 18th went flying into the hospitality area behind the green.

Luckily, the shot cannoned back off the suites before landing on the green. The world No268 grabbed the opportunity with both hands by holing a massive 65-feet putt to take an eagle, finishing on 15-under for the tournament which was good for second place.

“Apart from the second shot on 18, everything was good," Grillo said. "That second shot on 18 was a little further than I wanted, but I got lucky, and then I got lucky with a big putt.

“I just wanted to get ready in case there was a playoff. I am happy with what I did, I still think I left some putts around there but that 18 gave me what I missed.”

With no professional wins to his name and very few high performances to speak of, Grillo looked as surprised as anyone coming off the green, staring at the possibility of a surprise victory.

He didn’t hang around after his round, knowing that a potential playoff was in the offing.

At the time of his 18th-hole miracle, eventual winner Gallacher was on 14-under par with two holes to play. Anticipating a resurgence from the Scotsman, Grillo ran off to the practice ground to prepare.

A pair of birdies on the 16th and 17th for Gallacher eventually made the extra practice redundant. It wasn’t the case of the Buenos Aires native getting lucky and finishing second on the basis of just one shot.

He did have a superb tournament, leading the all-important greens in regulations stats with 86 per cent during the week and seventh in fairways hit at 72 per cent.

After this showing, the Argentine is surely going to become a more popular name with the fans.

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Too little too late as Woods finishes on a high in Dubai

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Frustrating week: Tiger Woods struggled to produce his best golf in Dubai.

Finishing ten shots behind eventual winner Stephen Gallacher, Tiger Woods proved that golf can often be a game of small margins.

The American was just one-under par on his final round, finishing down the field in tied 41st place at six-under par 282.

While the world No1 won’t exactly look back on this week as an opportunity missed, he does know it could have been so much better without much alteration to his round.

“I turned it around too late,” said Woods, who finished with three birdies in a row. “I drove great today, I was piping it all day, my iron game wasn’t as sharp as I’d like and I had a lot of lip outs, I had seven lip outs – that’s quite a few.

“The long game was frustrating all week, but I hit so many good putts, they just kept lipping out, my pace must have been a fraction off, the grain would snag it or it’d blow right through it.

“It was just one of those weeks. There’s nothing you can do about it, just look to practice and go forward.”

Woods came off the course relaxed and in surprisingly high spirits despite a poor tournament by his stratospheric standards.

An average front-nine saw him go out at one-over par, finishing with a bogey and a par before a spotty back-nine.

A birdie on the 10th briefly raised hopes of a Tiger fightback, but three pars were followed by a pair of bogeys. With any hope of a decent score gone, Tiger finally found his touch, finishing on a high with three straight birdies which pleased the huge crowds following him.

Woods believed his round of 71 betrayed the quality of golf that he played and insists there are only minor changes, in driving and putting, required to get his game back on track.

“I made a quick easy fix to my grip and from then on I drove great,” said the American. “I’ll definitely work on my putting, I need to get dead speed on those putts, but as far as my lines are concerned, I’m hitting my lines, I just need to concentrate on speed."

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McIlroy & Stenson fluff their lines during bid for Desert Classic glory

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Putter stutter: McIlroy had trouble reading the greens on the Majlis course.

World No6 Rory McIlroy and No3 Henrik Stenson were left flabbergasted by their inability to read the Majlis greens better as they struggled to match their own and everyone else’s expectations.

McIlroy, who led briefly during the day following a scratchy start by overnight leader Stephen Gallacher, just could not get any momentum on the back nine as he closed with a two-over par 74 and in tied ninth place, four shots behind the champion.

Stenson, another star hoping to win his second Desert Classic title, was left ruing a disastrous third day’s play, when he three-putted three times and made two double bogeys which effectively took him out of contention.

The European No1 closed with a 68 for a tied 29th place at eight-under par 280. McIlroy was having so much trouble reading his lines on Sunday, he actually asked his caddie to do it for him on the back nine.

Obviously, it did not help much either. The 24-year-old Ulsterman, who needed as many as 30 putts despite hitting only 11 greens in regulation, said: “Today the greens were a lot firmer. I actually played the front nine pretty solid. But the two bogeys on the par 5s on the back nine (10th and 13th) were obviously not what I was looking for.

“It was tougher, because the greens were firmer, to get the ball close and then the rare times I did get the ball close, I didn’t make any putts. It was just one of those days.

“I think anything that sort of could go wrong, did. I hit a couple of loose drives, but I didn’t really get away with them. I didn’t get a couple of putts to go in and I was struggling to read them today for some reason.

“I got JP (Fitzgerald, his caddie) to start reading them for me on the back nine and started to hole a bit more.

“The greens just changed color a little bit and it was very hard to see. I felt like every putt I saw, like everything I read was straight, even though it wasn’t. I just couldn’t see any sort of movement on them.”

Stenson, who finished 38th in the Putts Per Round stats category, said: “It was a bit frustrating. I started well, but then took the wrong stick and came in short in the bunker on the sixth, which was not the place to be, and three-putted for a double and three-putted the ninth and 14th.

“I have been struggling to find the right lines on these greens these last couple of days. I find that when I hit straighter putts, they are breaking a bit. Then I made some bad putts, and they were never going to go in.”

Stenson added he was happy with the work he put in during the three weeks of the Desert Swing, although he would have liked to have gone into the events better prepared.

“I got a bit of a decent practice, which was one of the main objectives from these three weeks.

“I have been very busy off the golf course, which obviously affected the way I prepared for these weeks,” said the Swede.

“To be honest, I would have liked to spend about two hours on the putting green this week, but given how busy we were on Tuesday and Wednesday (Champions Challenge, followed by the pro-am), I must have spent only half an hour.

“I feel my game is not in a bad place, and all I need to do is put in some good practice.

“I am now taking a couple of weeks off and will next play the WGC-Match Play.

“So, I am not going to touch the clubs for one week and spend the time with my wife and kids and then work really hard the second week and be in good shape for the Match Play.”

SCORES

272 – Stephen Gallacher (SCO) 66-71-63-72
273 – Emiliano Grillo (ARG) 71-67-69-66
274 – Romain Wattel (FRA) 68-73-67-66, Brooks Koepka (USA) 69-75-70-70
275 – Mikko Illonen (FIN) 69-72-70-64, Robert Rock (ENG) 69-70-68-70, Steve Webster (ENG) 71-70-64-70, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN) 71-68-65-71
276 – Paul Casey (ENG) 70-72-67-67, Bernd Wiesberger (GER) 70-70-68-68, Edoardo Molinari (ITA) 65-72-68-71, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 63-70-69-74
277 – Brett Rumford (AU S) 69-70-71-67, Thomas Bjorn (DEN) 72-70-68-67, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 69-69-71-68, Danny Willett (ENG) 71-65-73-68, Soren Hansen (DEN) 67- 71-71-68, Paul Waring (ENG) 70-70-68-69, Darren Fichardt (RSA) 69-72-66-70 278 – Simon Dyson (ENG) 69-69-73-67, Damien McGrane (IRL) 66-70-71-71, Jamie Donaldson (WAL) 69-68-70-71

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