Another top-10 finish for Bob MacIntyre as Lucas Herbert wins in Dubai on Australia Day
It was a case of 'fair dinkum' at the end of a crazy final round in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic as Lucas Herbert landed his maiden European Tour victory on Australia Day.
In strong swirling winds on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club, the 24-year-old from Bendigo in Victoria made the breakthrough in his 50th event on the circuit after beating South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout at the second hole in a play-off.
Herbert, who is the first Australian to get his hands on the iconic coffee pot up for grabs in the UAE event since Richard Green in 1997, hit his second shot at the first extra hole miles right into the water at the front of the 18th hole.
He kept his hopes alive, though, with a brilliant fourth shot to save par before sealing his first success in the paid ranks with a two-putt birdie as they played the closing hole for a second time.
"It feels pretty good," said Herbert, who picked up a cheque for €490,323 to leap into second spot behind Lee Westwood in the Race to Dubai. "I finished in the top 10 quite a few times and that was a pretty cool rush, but to win is something else. All of the bad times and all of the hard times and all the missed cuts, they made up for that feeling on the 18th green there."
On his win coming on Australia's national day, he added: "It's real special. Everything that's gone on back home (during the recent catastrophic bushfires), if I can bring a little bit of joy to the guys who are struggling back there and go back and celebrate with the guys, brilliant."
Earlier, Bezuidenhout had been on course to add to his maiden success in last year's Andalucia Masters at Valderrama only to see his third shot at the 72nd hole spin back into the water to cost him a closing bogey-6 - his only dropped shot of the day.
In signing off with a four-under 68, the 25-year-old finished with a nine-under-par 279 aggregate, which Herbert matched with the same last-day score in the next group after he signed off with a birdie. As an illustration of how tough it was, only two other players broke 70 on the last day, when the scoring average was 74.8, while this was the lowest winning total in relation to par by two shots in the event's history.
"It was brutal out there," declared Herbert as he also savoured pulling off the biggest last-day comeback in tournament's history after starting the day five off the pace, beating Tiger Woods, who won from four back in 2008.
"That rough was up pretty thick. Those greens were baked. It almost felt like a major in a way with the amount that you sort of just had to plan where you miss shots."
On getting away with that wayward blow at the first extra hole, he added: "It was just a poor shot. Thankfully, I followed the worst shot I hit with the week with the best shot I hit of the week to force the second play-off hole."
On a day that had started with Swede Sebastian Soderberg completing his round in one hour and 36 minutes - the fastest in European Tour history - overnight leader China's Ashun Wu holed everything in sight early on, including a chip at the short seventh, before his title bid was derailed by a semi-shank from the light rough at the tenth.
American Bryson DeChambeau, the defending champion, then had Stephen Gallacher's historic back-to-back wins in his sight after moving into a share of the lead with a birdie at the 13th only for his challenge to fizzle out with four bogeys in a row to finish.
Bob MacIntyre finished as top Scot in a share of eighth spot, closing with a 72 for a five-under-par total in his first start of the new season after resting his niggling hand problem since being crowned as Rookie of the Year on his last trip out here in November.
“For my first week out, it’s been a heck of a week," said the 23-year-old, who withdrew from last week's event in Abu Dhabi and wasn't 100 per cent certain he'd be able to tee up in this one. "I was firstly just trying to make the cut and that was goal, so to finish top 10 is a real plus.
"My putting this week has been absolutely brilliant. I don’t know if I had a three-putt this week and on greens that are almost too quick."
Grant Forrest, who had started the day a shot ahead of MacIntyre in joint-10th, opened with a birdie in the company of Open champion Shane Lowry but then had to wait until the 18th, where he two-putted from 100 feet, for his only other gain.
"It was brutal out there," said Forrest after signing for a 75 to finish in a tie for 16th on three-under. "It's one thing having wind but, when it is changing direction every few seconds, it means there's a lot of luck involved and we didn't get that today. I hit a lot of good golf shots, but got nothing out of them. It was just one of those days."
Scott Jamieson (75) finished just outside the top 30 on one-over, followed by David Law (71) on five-over, with David Drysdale and Richie Ramsay both ending up on seven-over after matching 76s in the closing circuit.