On a previous occasion he was clad in a yellow top for a final round, Sergio Garcia was demolished by Tiger Woods in the 2006 Open Championship at Hoylake. “I’ve just bludgeoned Tweety-pie,” Woods is said to have texted a friend. Unfortunately, there was no Woods to witness it in person following his withdrawal from the event before the second round, but boy did Garcia deserve to be chirpy as he donned that colour again to complete a wire-to-wire win in the $2.2 million Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The 37-year-old carded a flawless closing 69 on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club to finish on 19-under-par, three ahead of Henrik Stenson. The Swede did his best to hang on to the Spaniard’s coat-tails but admitted afterwards that it had been “game, set and match” after he “airmailed” the green at the short 15th, having just got within two shots of his playing partner, then watching Garcia hitting arguably the shot of the day to 15 inches.
“It was hard out there,” said the champion. “Henrik always makes it difficult. We both played hard and I’m very happy that I was able to come out on top. I’ve been fortunate to have some really good ball-striking tournaments and this definitely was one of them. I felt like my iron play was really good. I felt very comfortable with my game. I felt like I was in good control of what I wanted to do with my ball flight and stuff. I guess it showed.”
This is Garcia’s 30th worldwide victory and his 12th on the European Tour. Reminding us just how long he’s actually been around, the first of those came in the 1999 Irish Open. The most recent had also come in the desert, having landed the Qatar Masters just under three years ago. He’s the sixth Spaniard to land this title, joining Seve Ballesteros (1992), Jose Maria Olazabal (1998), Miguel Angel Jimenez (2010), Alvaro Quiros (2011) and Rafa Cabrera Bello (2012). Garcia overcame never before having finished in the top ten here to achieve that feat.
He’s likely to climb into the world’s top ten on the back of a first victory since beating Brooks Koepka in a play-off to claim the AT&T Byron Nelson on the PGA Tour last May. Can this be the year when Garcia finally lands that elusive major? Only time will tell, but, on this evidence, he can certainly head to Augusta National for the Masters, then on to Erin Hills (US Open), Royal Birkdale (Open) and Quail Hollow (USPGA) in buoyant mood.
“The only thing I can do is give my best out there and leave the course feeling like I gave it everything,” he added. “But it’s just not that easy. You know, golf is tough. Golf is really tough. We try to play as well as we can every single week, and I’m going to keep trying and give myself more shots, more chances at majors and see what happens.”
Stenson birdied the last for a 69 as he finished two shots ahead of England’s Tyrrell Hatton (67) and Denmark’s Lasse Jensen, whose closing 65 equalled the best score of the week. “I was chasing all day and I was trying to push, even though I didn’t play my best,” said the Open champion. “At 15, I picked the wrong wind and I hit the wrong shot at the same time and airmailed the green. When Sergio hit a good shot close, it was pretty much game, set, match. He did all the things you need to do to win a golf tournament, so congratulations to him. He’s a worthy champion.”
It was Garcia’s first triumph since getting engaged to Angela Akins. “When things are going well off the golf course, it’s much easier to feel comfortable on a golf course,” he noted of that development in his life.