Over the past few years, professional golfers around the world have found out that it is rather difficult to beat Henrik Stenson, particularly when he hits as many as 79 per cent greens in regulation in a tournament.
That was the Swede’s tally at the Majlis course, but at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, he had to settle for the bridesmaid’s role against another supreme ball-striker, Sergio Garcia.
The Spaniard was a popular winner, leading from the start to the end, and never looked threatened even as Stenson made his move on the final day.
Starting the day leading by three shots, the only way someone could have reined in Garcia would have been if he made mistakes. But showing steely resolve in a tournament where he never finished inside the top-10 in his seven earlier appearances, the 37-year-old fired a bogey-free round of three-under par 69 for his 12th European Tour triumph.
World No4 Stenson finished second at 16-under par after submitting a card of 69 himself, but he faltered at a crunch moment in his battle against the world No15, who is now expected to rise to No9 on Monday.
The 17-year-old Dubai-based schoolboy followed up his brilliant 68 on the opening day with a three-over par 75, marred by a double bogey on the 18th hole. Despite that, the MENA Tour Amateur Order of Merit champion safely proceeded into the weekend rounds at one-under par 143, with the cut applied at one-over par 145.
The only other UAE-based amateur to have made it this far in the tournament is Matthew Turner, who finished tied 51st in the 2009 edition, which was won by Rory McIlroy.
Thomas then made a brilliant start to his third round, making four birdies in his first five holes, but a double bogey on the second hole, and a triple on the seventh saw him finish his third round on two-over par 74. He goes into the final round today at 217, tied for the 54th place.
“It was awesome to make the cut, but I wasn’t really thinking about it. I kept thinking that I had two more rounds to play so that was what my mind was on. But pretty happy to make it to the weekend,” said the 112th ranked amateur in the world.
“I really can’t complain about the start. I was four-under through nine, but unfortunately fell away on the back. I think I just got a bit tired, head popped up, made a couple of bad swings and that cost me.
Sergio Garcia birdied the 18th hole in the dark to claim a three-shot lead over Ryder Cup team-mate Henrik Stenson ahead of the final round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Garcia carded a third round of 68 at Emirates Golf Club to finish 16 under par at the end of a day which had started at 7:30am local time and finished well after sunset.
Play had been suspended on Friday afternoon after several trees were blown over by strong winds and those players who had not managed to complete their rounds returned on day three to far more favourable conditions.
Garcia resumed on the sixth hole and reeled off three straight birdies on his way to a 67 and a three-shot halfway lead, which the 37-year-old Spaniard managed to maintain in dramatic fashion.
Having started the back nine of round three with three birdies in four holes to move four shots clear, Garcia three-putted the 15th before driving the green on the short 17th to set up a birdie and holing from eight feet for another on the last.