WELSHMAN Jamie Donaldson, the man who recently sent Robert Rock a picture of his US Masters invitation just to wind him up, has now succeeded him as winner of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The 37-year-old, whose only previous European Tour success came on his 255th start at the Irish Open last July, won the £278,172 first prize by a stroke when long-time leader Justin Rose lipped out on the final green from 12 feet.
Minutes earlier Donaldson had three-putted for a bogey six, missing from under five feet, but it did not matter.
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Against a field that had earlier in the week included world top two Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods – both missed the halfway cut – he could hardly believe what had just happened.
‘‘I played the pro-am on Wednesday and thought the course was too difficult and I had no chance,’’ Donaldson said. ‘‘I thought if I could get a decent finish I would be chuffed.
‘‘To be holding this trophy is just mad.’’ Rose, whose last trip to the Middle East in November saw him denied by McIlroy in Dubai, shared second place this time with Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, whose own 18ft attempt to force a play-off ran just wide.
The biggest sympathy vote, though, went to Rose’s fellow Englishman David Howell.
Down at 258th in the world – he was 569th less than three years ago – the former world number nine charged into the lead with five birdies in the first 10 holes.
But the Swindon golfer bogeyed the short 12th, then on the next splashed out of sand to four feet and, incredibly, four-putted from there for a triple-bogey seven.
Howell had to be content with a tie for sixth place when a first victory for seven years would have taken him comfortably back into the game’s top 100.
Hartlepool’s Graeme Storm failed in his bid for a top 50 finish.
Storm was consistent in following his first three rounds of 72, 73, 73 with a further 73, one over, to finish on three over for the four days.
That was enough to secure a cheque of around £4,000 in tied 64th place.
Donaldson, who earned his Masters spot by climbing into the top 50 by the end of last year, will be around 30th when the new rankings are published today.
‘‘It’s pretty surreal really and I got away with murder there at the last,’’ he added.
‘‘The wait was nerve-wracking.
I thought one of them would hole, if not both.’’ The six was Donaldson’s only dropped shot of the day.
He had resumed two behind Rose, but birdied the first, ninth and 11th and then, following Howell’s horror show, sank putts of 18 and 15 feet on the 14th and 15th to go two ahead.
His 68 gave him a 14-underpar total of 274, one better than his close friend Rock managed a year ago when he beat McIlroy by one and Woods by two.
As for that Masters invite photo being sent to Rock, Donaldson said: ‘‘It’s just banter.
He was ill in the week and said ‘Get my trophy back’.’’ Holding it up he added: ‘‘Here you are Rocky!’’ Rose had led from his opening 67, but managed only a closing 71. There were three back-nine birdies in that, but also bogeys at the 11th and 17th after he missed both greens.
Rose, whose runners-up finish was still good enough to take him back to fourth in the world, said: ‘‘It was definitely hard work today.
‘‘For some reason it was hard to see the breaks on the front nine, but I pulled it together really well and felt I got into a really good competitive mode.
‘‘When I birdied 14 I didn’t realise Jamie had had a hot round. I had actually expected to be one ahead at that point and I was one behind, so every credit to Jamie.
‘‘I didn’t do a lot wrong. It’s hard to beat yourself up about it.
‘‘I felt like I brought my best stuff on the back nine rather than the front nine, so that’s encouraging.
‘‘I don’t think I need to do anything different – just need to keep chipping away and keep swinging well.
‘‘But it was a long, hard week to end up second.’’ As for his closing putt his mind went back to the Ryder Cup last September.
‘‘It reminded me exactly of the putt at 18 against Phil (Mickelson), just outside right edge. That’s exactly where I hit it and unfortunately this time the putt didn’t go in for me. Would I swap it? No, I wouldn’t!’’ Nor would he deny Donaldson his triumph. He had ‘‘four years in the wilderness’’ after being told his injury trouble was a spinal condition called Pars Disease.
One doctor told him his career could be over, but he went for another opinion and instead of it being a nightmare the story since has been the stuff of dreams.