Sweden’s Henrik Stenson set his sights on an elusive major championship after successfully defending a title for the first time in his career following a thrilling finish to the DP World Tour Championship.
Stenson carded a closing 70 at Jumeirah Golf Estates to finish 16 under par, two shots ahead of world No 1 Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup team-mates Justin Rose and Victor Dubuisson.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry finished a shot further back in fifth to move into the top 50 in the world and all-but secure a Masters debut next April.
The victory was worth more than £1.3 million to Stenson thanks to the first prize of £830,000 and a bonus of £510,000 for maintaining second place in the Race to Dubai behind McIlroy – although even that paled into insignificance compared to the £7.3m he banked last year for becoming the first man to win the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same season.
It also took him second in the world rankings but the 38-year-old said: “It would be nice to have been ranked the world’s best at some point, but if I had the choice I would go for a major championship, so I am going to try and be in good shape for them next year.”
Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello held a two-shot lead with seven holes to play only to bogey the 12th and run up double bogeys on the 16th and 17th after finding water on both occasions.
Stenson had also found trouble on a rollercoaster back nine, hitting his tee shot out of bounds on the 11th to gift playing partner Cabrera-Bello that two-shot advantage, but a brilliant five-iron tee shot on the par-three 17th produced a tap-in birdie to reclaim the lead.
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McIlroy and Rose had missed birdie putts on the 18th from near-identical positions, while Dubuisson had to settle for a birdie after almost holing out from a greenside bunker.
“It feels great,” added Stenson, who finished in style with a birdie on the 18th. “I did not play my best and had a shocking hole on 11.
“That knocked me back but I did not give up. I just had to dig in there and wait for something to happen. I had a couple of close calls this year to get my win and it was not to be. It’s been close but eventually you get something if you stick around and I surely did that.”
McIlroy failed to take advantage of a lucky break on the 18th when his tee shot hit a rock in the creek which runs through the middle of the fairway and bounced to safety, but the 25-year-old was philosophical about his performance.
“I would never expect 14 under to have a remote chance of winning the tournament,” McIlroy said. “It seemed like no-one took it by the scruff of the neck and I thought if I could post 16 under I might have a chance.
“I just did not play well enough to win but that’s a real positive, not just for next year but the rest of my career. In seasons gone by a bad week would have been middle of the pack or battling to make the cut.”
Rose was ultimately left to rue a slow start to the week – he was four over par after 10 holes of the opening round – and his failure to pick up a shot on the 17th or 18th after a brilliant escape from the trees on the 15th had set up his third birdie in a row.
“All week I was clawing my way back, right from the start on Thursday,” Rose said. “Today I did everything I needed to do early in my round and made a few poor mistakes in the middle. That was where I struggled.
“But all in all, lots of positives and a good week. It’s a little bit like Shanghai (the BMW Masters) where I had a good chance there as well after a poor start (four over after four holes). But at least it tells me I’m playing well and getting myself into contention. It’s never easy to win every time.”
Speaking about breaking into the world’s top 50, Lowry said: “It was one of the goals for me playing these last four tournaments. I’ve been between 52 and 54 in the world for a month or so now and I felt like I have been playing the golf to have the high finish to get in there.
“I just wasn’t scoring well and finishing 15th to 25th. A nice, high finish this week is going to do it for me, so I’m thrilled and I can’t wait till next April.”
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