Jose Coceres bridged a six-year gap when he added the Dubai Desert Classic title to the Heineken Open Catalonia which he won in 1994 when he secured a two stroke victory over Paul McGinley and Patrik Sjoland at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club.
The 36 year old from Buenos Aires, who was born into poverty but has emerged as one of Argentina’s strongest golfing exports, allowed himself the luxury of a double bogey six at the final hole and still had two strokes to spare over the field.
Coceres, who held a four stroke lead at halfway and increased his advantage to five after 54 holes, shot a closing round of 73, one over par, for a winning 14 under par total of 274. McGinley and Sjoland both fired 67s to overhaul several players and claim a share of second place.
One of 11 children, four of whom are golf professionals, Coceres displayed admirable coolness as he started out on the biggest day of his life. Much like Nick Faldo in the 1987 Open Championship at Muirfield, he ground out par after par to keep his rivals at bay.
Eventually, after 15 straight pars, he made virtually certain of success with a birdie two at the 16th. The certainty became less so when he drove into water at the last and took a penalty drop but the resultant six could not keep the broad beam off his face.
Coceres admitted the pressure had been on him as he set out on the final round, knowing that a cheque for €230,742 (£141,610) awaited him. He said: “It was very, very good for me to win because with a five shot lead it would not have been good to finish second.
“Right from the first hole I knew that second was not good. Now I am very, very happy and this win is for all the people who were supporting me, my children and my direct family. I came very close to winning in Argentina last year and this makes up for that.”
After cutting his drive into the water at the last, Coceres still felt the title was in his safe hands. He added: “When I knew it was in the water it still wasn’t very worrying because I knew I had a four shot lead.”
Sjoland finished the strongest of all over the weekend with rounds of 66 and 67 for a 12 under par total of 276. On the same mark was McGinley, tied third last year over the same course, who took inspiration from his next door neighbour, Darren Clarke.
The Dubliner said: “Darren was magnificent last week. He gave the European Tour a massive boost. He’s broken through on the world stage and I’m delighted for him. My own game has gone up a couple of notches in the last few months and I have to keep it going.”
Lee Westwood, who shared the first round lead with Coceres, tried hard to put pressure on the Argentinian and got to 11 under par – four off the pace – after eight holes. However he failed to birdie either of the next two par fives and admitted: “That was the key – not taking advantage of these holes.”
Westwood finished with a 71 for 278 and a share of fourth place along with Stephen Gallacher, Jamie Spence and Open champion Paul Lawrie, while European Tour Qualifying School winner, Alastair Forsyth, continued his outstanding progress in his rookie season.
The Paisley golfer tied for ninth on 280 to lift his season’s earnings to €115,283 (£70,750) which will almost certainly he earns full exempt status on the European Tour in 2001.
Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden broke the course record of 64, set on the first day by Coceres and Westwood, with a third round of 63 containing seven birdies and an eagle.