Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship winner Gary Stal has been voted The European Tour Race to Dubai Golfer of the Month for January after his superlative seven under par final round in the UAE saw him triumph by a shot over World Number One Rory McIlroy.
Trailing Martin Kaymer by eight shots through three rounds at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, the 22 year old Frenchman went bogey-free on Sunday – including four consecutive gains from the eighth – to overhaul the reigning US Open Champion as he fell away on the back nine.
Having overcome his considerable deficit to top the leaderboard with just a few holes to play, Stal holed a dramatic 35 foot putt at the 16th for a final birdie that proved crucial in his narrow victory over McIlroy, who was unable to match the Lyon native down the stretch.
His maiden European Tour triumph earned him a place amongst the top five in The Race to Dubai at this early stage in the season, as well as entry into some of golf’s biggest events.
“It’s a real pleasure for me – I’m very happy to win this award,” said Stal. “I think my game is the best it has ever been at the moment and my putting is amazing so that helped me get this win.
“The win was very big for me and now I will get to play some huge events like the WGC-Cadillac in Miami and the WGC-Bridgestone in Akron, so it was important in a lot of ways.
“I think the victory, and the way it happened, will mostly help my confidence in my own game and now I hope I can carry on with the form for the rest of this season.”
A former Challenge Tour graduate, Stal won twice on the second tier in 2012 en route to 17th place in the Rankings, and a debut season on The European Tour. Some initial difficulties saw him unable to retain his card the following year, but after a successful turn at the Qualifying School Final Stage, he went on to finish 85th in The Race to Dubai in 2014.
The Frenchman follows on from Danny Willett, who was named the December Golf of the Month after his impressive victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
That was the Englishman’s second European Tour title and came as the result of an emphatic four stroke victory over compatriot Ross Fisher and 54-hole leader Luke Donald, thanks to a closing round of 66 at Gary Player Country Club.