Career-best 63 secures 'massive' Tour Championship debut for Grant Forrest
Pride of place in the UAE went to Frenchman Antoine Rozner as he overhauled long-time leader Andy Sullivan on the back nine on the Fire Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates to claim his maiden victory with a 25-under-par 263 total.
But it was also a great week’s work for Forrest, who came into the penultimate event of the season needing a big performance to make the line up for the $8 million finale on the neighbouring Earth Course and duly delivered.
The 27-year-old, who is now based in Haddington, carded 10 birdies, including three to finish, as he signed for the best round of the day with an effort that beat his previous best score on the circuit by two shots.
Forrest had started the week sitting 75th in the Race to Dubai, but is projected to climb to 66th, with the list for next week’s 60-man field set to go down to somewhere in the 70s due to a number of players deciding not to make the trip from America.
“It’s massive,” said the former Scottish Amateur of making it all the way to the finish of the campaign in just his second season on the top tour. “It’s been the goal for the whole year.
“I got off to a good start before all this (the Covid-19 pandemic) kicked off then I’ve not really played my best since we started playing again.
“Coming into this week, I knew I needed at least a top five. I set myself a target of 20-under and I was a bit disappointed with yesterday’s round as I left a few shots out there coming in.
“Today was one of those days where everything went for me. I putted really well, as you have to shoot nine-under, and I got away with a couple of bad shots, too, at the end.”
Forrest, who started the day nine shots behind overnight leader Andy Sullivan, birdied the first before moving up a gear as he reeled off four birdies in a row to finish his front nine, reaching the turn in 31.
He dropped his only shot of the day at the 11th a long par 3, but bounced back straight away with a birdie before adding further gains at the 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th in a strong sign off.
“A good start was key,” added Forrest, who came close to beating his fourth-place best finish in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open almost exactly a year ago.
“I managed to steal a birdie at eight, which is one of the toughest holes today, and followed that up with another birdie at nine and five-under at the turn was a good start.
“I knew I had to keep pressing on. You can’t start playing defensively on this course, especially when you are trying to shoot a low one.
“I made a bogey on 11 but then bounced back straight away on 12 then holed a long putt for birdie on 14. At 16, I pulled my 3-wood going for the green and ended up on the path.
“I was fortunate enough to drop it on the grass and that left me with a fairly easy pitch - I really got away with one there by making birdie.
“At 17, I hit my drive pretty far right, but I was lucky enough to get through the thicker rough and managed to hit my second to 15 feet and make that.
“At 18, I left myself in a good position after two shots and, though I was a little conservative with my chip, I left myself with an uphill putt, which is important here where the pins are, and managed to roll another one in.
“Going into today on 12-under and nine shots behind, it’s just go for it. That’s all you can do. It was all-out attack and sometimes that’s what you need. It just frees you up to go and play. I’m obviously delighted to finish like that.”
Marc Warren, who had already secured his spot in the DP World Tour Championship, also finished in the top 10 after a closing 67 for a 19-under total earned him a share of eighth spot.
“Patience was good again,” said the Austrian Open winner. “On the front nine, I don’t seem to have been able to hole a putt this week, but then I’ve got a reward with some good back nines, so nice to finish strong.
“Over the four days, I could have putted better but really pleased with my game. I was solid off the tee and gave myself a lot of chances into the greens. Overall, it was a very solid week.”
On his performance on the greens, he added: “I don’t think I was hitting bad putts, it was more about reading the greens. It’s the first time I’ve played on grain for a while and maybe not as sharp as I could be.
“I’ll do a bit of work over the next few days and hopefully it will be second nature come Thursday.”
His projected Race to Dubai ranking is 51st, with Bob MacIntyre staying in 22nd spot after he had to settle for a share of 19th position on 16-under following a disappointing last-day 72.
Craig Howie (72) tied for 25th on 14-under, one ahead of Stephen Gallacher (71), while Euan Walker (70) and Ewen Ferguson (71) ended up outside the top 50 on seven-under and three-under respectively.
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