Dubai: Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher won the 2013 $2.5 million (Dh9.18 million) Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday, equalling the event’s lowest 72-hole score record with a 22-under-par score of 266 (63, 70, 62, 71).
He beat South Africa’s Richard Sterne, who led after rounds one and two, by three shots thanks to a game-changing 115-yard eagle on 16, his fifth of the week.
It’s only his second European Tour victory in 404 events, his last being the 2004 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, eight years and 116 days ago.
Gallacher, who equalled the lowest 72-round score of 266 at the event set by Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn in 2001, said of his eagle: “These days you need to do something special to win out here. It was perfect. I’ve had breaks this week and that’s what you need to win.”
The win moves him into the top 60 in the world rankings from 111th, and puts him in a good position to qualify for the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championships for the first time.
In the 201-event wait for silverware, he had finished second on three occasions at the 2006 British Masters, the 2012 Malaysian Open and tied for second at this event last year. It breaks his also-ran curse on his 13th attempt at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic crown.
His success also made the 2013 Gulf Swing of Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai an all-British affair, with a Welshman, Englishman and Scotsman taking honours, in Jamie Donaldson, Chris Wood and now Gallacher respectively. All three were surprise winners.
Asked to explain his long wait for silverware, Gallacher said: “It’s not for a lack of trying. I wish I could put my finger on it.
“I’ve had a lot of seconds, a lot of top tens — but you need a break to win, and I was saying coming up here today, it’s the first time I’ve ever been leading going into the last round.
“All of the times I’ve finished second I’ve come from behind, so I was hoping that would be the clincher and it was.”
Of the surprise winners on the Gulf Swing, he added: “Golf is so bunched out here, everyone is capable of doing it. That’s why you see so many first-time winners.
“You need something a bit special to win and that’s what I’ve had this week with holing shots and bunker shots — that’s what you need to do.”
Having started the final day three shots ahead of Sterne at 21-under par, Gallacher bogeyed his opening two holes, while Sterne birdied the second to pull level at 19-under par early on.
Both players then birdied the third, locked together on 20-under par until the eighth hole, where Gallacher ended his front nine with a bogey before a restorative birdie.
Sterne then pulled ahead on the 10th with a birdie to go 21 under par, but two consecutive bogeys on the following two holes took him to 19-under then back level with Gallacher on 20-under after a birdie on 13.
The South African then bogeyed 15 and 16, before a birdie on 17 left him 19-under, while Gallacher, the nephew of former Ryder Cup captain Bernard, eagled the 16th and ended on 22-under par.