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.
There were two key moments – the first came when Garcia saved a stunning par on the eighth hole after pushing his drive into the desert, and the second when Stenson lost his momentum with a bogey on the par-3 15th hole.
Garcia started the day with a birdie on the first hole, but Stenson restored the original gap with one of his own on the sixth.
On the eighth, it could have been disaster, but Garcia hit a superb second shot from the dirt, and made his par.
“Obviously, eighth was a big moment for me. Maybe, because I was in pretty good control. I was 1-under, fairly easily through the first seven, and not really missing many shots,” said Garcia.
“And then I hit that terrible drive. To be able to save par there was big mentally. Even though I hit such a poor drive, that par save was probably better than if I would have hit a good drive, a really nice iron shot to 12 feet and two-putted. It was like a little boost.
“And it was a little bit of a wake-up call for me, too, because it was like, ‘Gosh, what’s happening here’. I mean, obviously I felt so comfortable throughout that I probably didn’t focus as much as I should have.”
With a birdie on ninth, Garcia again increased the advantage to four shots over Stenson, who replied with three birdies and a bogey in five holes after the turn to close the gap to two.
On the 15th, Stenson overshot the green and failed to make his up-and-down for par, whereas Garcia hit a stunning tee shot to two feet and made a birdie for a two-shot swing.
Stenson, who won the tournament in 2007, said: “Obviously I was chasing all day and I was trying to push, even though I didn’t play my best.
“With that birdie on 14, I was hoping I was going to be able to make it a bit interesting coming into the last couple of holes. If you’re one or two behind, with 17 and 18, a lot of things can happen…you can eagle and someone else can end up in trouble.
“We picked the wrong wind and I hit the wrong shot at the same time. Airmailed the green on 15 and led to bogey. And Sergio hit a good shot to three feet and then it was pretty much game, set, match.”
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).