Even with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods missing the weekend, te European Tour provided a very entertaining Sunday morning for gof fans in the U.S.
Welshman Jaime Donaldson fired a 4-under-par final round of 68 to finish at 14-under and win the 2013 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championships at Abu Dhabi Golf Course, UAE. Donaldson finished one shot ahead of third-round leader Justin Rose and Dane Thorbjørn Olesen.
With the victory, Donaldson’s second career European Tour win, the 37-year old moves into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings and earned a spot in the 2013 Masters. It was a particularly sweet moment for the European Tour veteran, who at one point had lost his card, but rebuilt his game to the point where he could compete with the best players in the world.
Donaldson got out to a fast start, notching a birdie on Hole 1. He added four more birdies in a seven hole stretch starting on the ninth hole to take a one shot lead over third-round leader, Rose. The lead expanded to two shots when Rose played perhaps his loosest hole of the tournament, in bogeying No. 16.
Rose put himself in position to get one back with an approach to 8 feet on the 441-yard 17th hole. But he missed his birdie opportunity; his only remaining chance for victory was an improbable eagle on No. 18 or a birdie and a mistake by Donaldson. After a routine par on No. 17, Donaldson hit his drive on the 567-yard 18th hole into the left rough, and his left his third shot was hit to 60 feet away from the hole, leaving a very difficult uphill two-putt for par.
Donaldson complied with Rose’s needs, missing a 4-footer for par to shave his lead to one shot over Rose and Olesen. Olesen left his third shot on No. 18 some 15 feet under the hole while Rose put his pin high, just 10 feet away. Olesen’s birdie attempt to tie Donaldson curled by the left side of the hole, leaving it to third-round leader Rose to force a playoff. Rose hit a beautiful putt that cruelly hit the hole and lipped out. It was that kind of day for Rose, who had been the beneficiary of stellar putting all week but never quite got it going on Sunday.
Donaldson was both elated and humble in victory.
“I played good [sic] all week and particularly today,” he said. “Honestly, I was thinking that there would be a playoff but a couple of putts went my way.”
Donaldson tipped his cap to the difficulty of the gargantuan 7600-yard, par-72 layout.
“When I was playing the pro-am my thought was that it’s just too hard,” he said. “So I just put my head down and tried to play aggressively. It’s a great way to start to start the year.”
Other notable finishers included three-time Abu Dhabi Championship winner Martin Kaymer, who finished tied for sixth place with a 9-under par 279.
The European Tour continues its Desert Swing when it reconvenes next week in Qatar for the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, followed by the Omega Dubai Classic the week after.