Dubai: Paul Casey eased to a comfortable Omega Dubai Desert Classic triumph at Emirates Golf Club on Sunday as closest rival Robert MacIntyre crumbled under the pressure.
The Englishman secured a four-stroke victory as he kept his cool in the Dubai winner sunshine, while his playing partner MacIntyre suffered a torrid final day under the skyscrapers of Jumeirah Lakes Towers. Casey won with a cool two-under 70 on a breezy day where low scores were hard to come by. Brandon Stone took second and Scotland’s MacIntyre had to settle for third.
Casey looked to be back in the prime that saw him claim two Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship titles back in the 2000s. MacIntyre pushed Casey all the way when the 43-year-old claimed his last title at the Porsche Open in Germany in September 2019, but the four-time Ryder Cupper had no need to look over his shoulder or at the leaderboard on Sunday as he was in cruise control to get his hands on the famous Coffee Pot trophy for a first time and thrust himself into contention for another appearance for Europe against the United States at Whistling Straits in September.
It looked like a straight fight between the final pairing in Dubai as third-placed Stone fell away with three early bogeys.
Casey was in danger of making it a one-horse race early on as his brilliant chip on the par-3 fourth made it two birdies on the trot as MacIntyre tried to cling on to his coattails. However, a bogey on the sixth for the Englishman meant it was a one-stroke advantage once again.
MacIntyre handed the advantage straight back with a costly bogey on the par-3 seventh and Casey was once again looking good to add to his Middle East haul, with two Abu Dhabi titles and one Bahrain crown already in the bag.
Worse was to follow for MacIntyre as he slumped to two more bogeys before the turn. His approach play deserted him after some wayward driving left him struggling for position. Casey also dropped a shot on the eighth, meaning the leading pair had shipped five strokes in four holes between them. However Casey still held a commanding three-stroke lead with nine to go.
The left-handed MacIntyre’s game was crumbling as a great recovery on the par-5 10th went to waste with an astonishing three-putt from within four feet. With Casey taking a five, it seemed the game was up as instead of closing the gap, MacIntyre was handing the title on a plate to the 43-year-old.
All of a sudden, Stone’s two-over was not looking too shabby as MacIntyre opened the door for second place, while Casey sauntered into the distance.
MacIntyre stopped the rot with pars on 11 and 12, but Stone picked up a stroke just ahead on 13 to drop the Scotsman to third on the leaderboard.
So Casey was looking at a stroll around the final holes with a five-stroke advantage with five to play, while MacIntyre was muttering to himself and looking desperate to get back on the range to iron out what went wrong.
MacIntyre and Stone made some inroads at 14 and 17 respectively. Stone step himself up for a grandstand finish with birdie on 17, cutting Casey’s lead to three.
Stone came undone with a wild approach to the 18th green and a poor putt meant he could only muster par on the birdie-friendly final hole, while MacIntyre’s approach summed up his day and he had to scramble for a lacklustre par to set the stage for Casey to hole out with a terrific birdie.
“It’s very, very special,” said an emotional Casey as he walked off the 18th green. “It’s an unbelievable roster (of winners). That’s so cool, I’ve worked so hard. I feel like I’ve regained my youth, I mean that sincerely.”
Casey has formed a successful long term partnership with caddie John McLaren and he was full of praise for the man known as Johnny Long Socks. “I have the biggest respect for that guy,” he said. “He is my mate more than he is my caddie.”