He enjoyed a fine 2005 season with several superb performances, but the only thing missing from Chris DiMarco’s golfing CV last year was a victory. The 37 year old American put that right in The Gulf however, with a sensational performance to win the inaugural Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
Playing in his first European Tour event outside the Majors and World Golf Championships, DiMarco claimed the €275,411 (£188,162) first prize after a thrilling final day’s play at the immaculately presented Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
DiMarco carded a final round 67 for a 20 under par total of 268 and a one shot victory over the gallant Henrik Stenson, who pushed the American all the way to the final green. The Swede began the day with a one shot lead but his closing 69 saw him finish one shot behind the American with a 19 under par total of 269.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia completed a star-studded top table at the prize giving ceremony when he took third place with a closing 66 for an 18 under par total of 270, but the day, and the plaudits belonged to DiMarco and his wife Amy, who acted as his caddie for the week, a fact which made the win all the sweeter for the US Ryder Cup player.
“This is four years to the month since I have been in the winner's circle,” he said. “Like I said on Wednesday, a win, anywhere is great and this was an unbelievable field this week. I think we had four guys in the top 11 in the world here, so we had a very good field. Henrik played great and obviously Sergio played real good today.
“I just played good, solid golf all week. The first day was really, really difficult, the wind, and then it was a little bit less. And then I got off to a great start today, which really helped obviously calm everything down.
“It put me up in front where I didn't have to feel like I had to make birdies and I could put it in the middle of the green. That's the key in the wind is just giving yourself opportunities and just trying to take advantage of some when you have a chance.”
DiMarco’s blistering start began with a birdie three at the first where he holed from six feet after his nine iron approach landed behind the flag. He then upped the ante with an eagle three at the second hole where he holed from 20 feet and he followed that with a birdie two at the 161 yard fourth hole after a five iron to four feet.
Four under par through four holes put DiMarco firmly in the driving seat and from there on he was the man to catch. Stenson came closest but when DiMarco made a crucial birdie at the 16th after a three iron approach left him a 15 foot putt, he moved two clear with two to play.
Stenson refused to give up and showed the same resilience which had seen him battle a back strain and a stomach bug earlier in the week to card a course record 62 in Saturday’s third round.
But even though the Swede – now widely talked about as a virtual certainty for Europe’s Ryder Cup Team at The K Club in September – two putted the 559 yard 18th for a birdie four, DiMarco’s two putt for a par five was enough to secure his one shot victory.
“I drove the ball nicely but just couldn't hit the irons close enough,” he said. “And on the putts, I wasn't really on either. I struggled, but kept it fairly tight. Second is not that bad, but going out with a one shot lead, you always want to win.
“There have been a few second places now for me recently, so I would like to change it into a win. But still, only the first tournament of the year, so hopefully I'll get plenty of other chances.”
Third placed Garcia carded the best final round of the leading three players, a flawless six under par 66 which featured three birdies in each half. But the Spaniard was left to rue a few missed opportunities in his opening rounds of 70 which ultimately cost him a shot at the title.
“When you come to an event like this where you have so many good players, you know that you can't afford to make many mistakes,” he said. “I did pretty well this week but unfortunately probably the first day was my weakest day with those putts I missed.
“But I'm looking forward to keep going. I think if I keep going on this same line, playing and putting the way I'm putting, although I missed a good amount of putts the last few days, I hit a lot of good putts. When you hit so many shots close, you're going to miss some, I guess that's the explanation.”
Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez took fourth on 271 (-17), Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain was fifth on 273 (-15), while Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie and Jyoti Randhawa of India shared sixth place on 13 under par 275.
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