Danny Willett holed a birdie putt at the 18th to win the Dubai Desert Classic by one shot from Andy Sullivan and Rafa Cabrera-Bello at the Emirates Golf Club on a dramatic Sunday.
The champion finished the tournament on 19-under par after a final round of 69. He was level with Sullivan, who shot 68 on Day 4, walking down the last, before holing the biggest putt of his professional career to take the title. Cabrera-Bello also birdied 18 to finish joint-second alongside Sullivan on 18-under.
This is the moment the Englishman claimed his fourth win on the European Tour:
Here’s a look at the final leaderboard from a thrilling competition, the prize money won by the top players and a recap of how the action panned out on what was an enthralling last day in Dubai.
Willett takes home €402,670 (£310,000) as the champion; Cabrera-Bello and Sullivan win €209,846 (£115,000) for second place.
For the leaderboard and prize money details in full check out the European Tour website.
Willett Holds His Nerve on Frantic Final Day
With a one-shot lead intact for Willett on the final day, the Englishman would have been acutely aware that there were plenty of men on the leaderboard who still fancied their chances of taking this title. And that’s exactly what transpired on a frantic Sunday.
Indeed, even world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, despite being eight shots back, couldn’t be ruled out. At one point during the Northern Irishman’s brilliant final round, he looked as though he was capable of forcing his way into contention, per the European Tour Twitter feed:
However, despite a brilliant seven-under par round of 65, the four-time major winner was simply too far back. McIlroy took the clubhouse lead at 15-under for the tournament, but there were men out on course set to better that number.
Despite rounds of 65 from both Byeong-hun An and Alvaro Quiros, putting them in joint-fourth on 16-under come the end of the day, as the final groups rounded the turn, it became clear this was set to be a three-horse race between Willett, Sullivan and Cabrera-Bello.
On two separate occasions on Day 4 the overnight leader had been able to build up a three-shot lead. The second of which was whittled down to one as Willett bogeyed the 14th, though, with Sullivan picking up a shot at the par-three 15th.
As we can see, Sullivan was battling extremely hard to keep his title hopes alive, making this putt to avoid a bogey at 16:
On the last, he really heaped the pressure on Willett. The par-five final hole has been a brilliant one for Sullivan all week, and for the third time in four rounds, he notched a birdie. It was a steely putt that moved him up to 18-under, with the final group still to play the last.
To add to the drama, Cabrera-Bello was clinging on, too. Willett’s playing partner had struggled to find rhythm for much of the day, but a birdie at the 17th moved him to within one of the lead.
The 18th hasn’t been particularly kind to Willett this week, either, failing to birdie it at all. But he seemed to come alive under this immense focus, pinging a long drive off the tee and scrambling his way to within 15-feet of the pin with his next two shots. When Cabrera-Bello tidied up for birdie to move to 18-under, a three-way playoff was looming.
But the 28-year-old showed concentration and nerves befitting of a champion, as he rolled a superb putt right into the middle of the cup.
European Tour player David Horsey was quick to congratulate the two Englishmen for their mammoth efforts during the final few holes:
It was a superb finish, and for Willett, there’s no better way to get over the line in a tournament. So often players crumble in those kinds of situations, and while the pressure did seem to bite the Englishman on the back nine, he delivered when it came to the crunch.
Willett is still young and still improving, so for him to have four European Tour titles already by the age of 28 is impressive. As he goes in pursuit of more honours, that moment and that putt on the 18th green will stand him in superb stead.