European Tour: Dubai Desert Classic – Danny Willett
A fourth win for Willett after a week which contained 26 birdies and an eagle. The last shot of the tournament proved to be the Englishman’s final birdie, a 15-foot putt to pip Andy Sullivan, who had holed a similar putt in the group ahead, and Rafa Cabrera-Bello who had two-putted for his birdie in the final pairing.
This was a huge win for the Sheffield player in terms of his Ryder Cup and Olympic aspirations and he did it with a closing 69 to finish on -19. There were three bogeys on Sunday but successive birdies at 12 and 13 took him clear and his nearest rivals couldn’t quite catch him. Willett closes it out after laying up at the par-5 18th and then wedged to 15 feet.
Sullivan, who began the week with a double-bogey, had just done likewise while in-form Cabrera-Bellow birdied the last two holes. Ben An and back on song Alvaro Quiros closed with 65s for a share of fourth.
Rory McIlroy also had a 65, his best of the week. He was 29 under for his two Desert Swing outings and, while plenty will have expected a win, there is plenty to like about his start to 2016.
What Willett said: “I’m just ecstatic. You can’t buy that feeling, coming down the back nine, the last three holes, in contention of a tournament. You can’t pay for that experience: you’ve got to earn it. With all the permutations that were going on as we were coming down the last, with Sully making birdie ahead of us and then Rafa on the green in two, it’s very nice to know that I can dig deep and produce what I can when it is needed the most.
“You’d love to win by five or six every time you win, but when you win in that fashion, it does feel that little bit extra special. It means when the pressure is on I can produce the goods, I guess. It’s always great to come out early in the season and win. Everything I’ve done has been really good this week, and mentally I’ve been as good as I have been for a long, long time. I stayed patient and let things happen.”
PGA Tour: Waste Management Phoenix Open – Hideki Matsuyama
The 23-year-old moved to No 12 in the world after beating Rickie Fowler at the fourth extra hole. The American found water at the 17th for the second time in the day and Matsuyama was able to make a solid par.
At the second extra hole both players birdied the 18th from around 14 feet, as they had done at the 72nd hole, and then Fowler followed it up with a similar length effort at the next, the 10th, to stay in it. But a pulled 3-wood meant he had to get up and down and, for once, he wasn’t able to.
In ’normal time’ Fowler looked to have the tournament in his grasp but he got a fast bounce off a downslope at the short par-4 17th and his ball bombed through the back of the green, a total of 360 yards and into water. Matsuyama made that a two-shot swing with his
birdie three and then came the start of the 18th-hole heroics.
Matsuyama made one from 18 feet and Fowler followed him in from nearly 10 – both putts were the longest each player made in regulation play on Sunday.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry made a late run with five birdies from the 12th to tie for sixth, which included a pair of birdies at the 16th. This followed up on his top-15 finish at Torrey Pines last week.
What Matsuyama said: “At 18, the 72nd hole, the putt I made there was probably the best putt I have ever made in my life.
“Maybe from the outside it looked calm, but then I was nervous inside. And I played well all day long and so it just carried over into the play-off holes. It was a blast playing in front of all these people. Really. Honestly. It was a dream come true.”
LPGA Tour: Coates Golf Championship – Ha Na Jang
Last week Jang holed her tee shot at a par for the first albatross in LPGA Tour history, now she is a winner on Tour. Last year she was runner-up four times.
She had to play 56 holes on the last two days and went into the final round tied for the lead with World No 1 Lydia Ko. The New Zealander then uncharacteristically went to pieces with five bogeys and a double-bogey in the space of just 10 holes from the 4th but then rattled in a hat-trick of birdies from the 15th to threaten again.
Canadian youngster Brooke Henderson led after a birdie at the 11th but slipped up with two late bogeys and Jang, who was second last year after coming through pre-qualifying, saved her best for the closing holes. Her first birdie came from close range at the 16th and she repeated that at the 72nd hole to get off the mark and win by two.
What Jang said: “It’s (the other Korean players’ success) been affecting me the way I play because they’re competitors and they’re good friends. I’ve been competing with them for a long time. So watching them winning and then I’m finishing second four times, it’s been heartbreaking. I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I worked very hard, so finally I got there and have the win. From now on, I’m going to be able to relax a little bit more, focus more on upcoming tournaments.”