Retief Goosen swooped with a glorious eagle three at the last hole to celebrate his 37th birthday in party fashion at the Emirates Golf Club. The South African struck a three iron to 20 feet and duly despatched the putt to tie Denmark’s Anders Hansen in the lead after the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Goosen, who had a sleepless night after learning that his young son, Leo, had been involved in a car accident close to his Surrey home, woke up in a golfing sense in time to post a round of 67 for a 13 under par total of 131.
Minutes earlier, Hansen had signed for the lowest score of the week, a nine under par 63 to set the clubhouse target. He seemed sure to be outright leader going into the final day and a pairing with World Number One Tiger Woods, but Goosen decided he wanted his share of the cake with that spectacular eagle – despite thinking his approach to the green might drop short in the water.
Hansen will still get his wish to play with Woods, however. The American posted a cavalier 66 before lunchtime with eight birdies, an eagle, a bogey and a double bogey.
Due to an early morning suspension because of fog, which delayed the start of play by 55 minutes, two matches were unable to finish their second rounds. They returned to the Emirates at 8.15am local time with the third round commencing at 10.05am in three balls with a two tee start. Hansen, Goosen and Woods will make up the final three ball at 12.05.
Goosen isn’t intending spending a riotous evening in celebration of his birthday. He said: “I am going to have an early night. I didn’t sleep well after learning of the car accident involving Leo and our nanny. Luckily everybody is fine.”
Hansen, the former PGA Champion, picked up nine birdies in his round and said: “I played nicely and am delighted with that. I could read the lines and it just felt like I could make the putts. I haven’t played with Tiger and it will be a great experience to play with him tomorrow.”
England’s Nick Dougherty had hoped to be in the same position. Dougherty, who shot a 66 to finish on 11 under par alongside Woods and Australia’s Richard Green, expected to achieve his life’s ambition until darkness forced the third round to be played in three balls.
“If your aspiration is to become one of the best players in the world there is no better experience than playing with arguably the best player that’s ever played the game” said Dougherty, before his own ambitions were dashed.
He added: “If I don’t get the chance this week I will maybe get the chance at a more meaningful time in the future – maybe at an Open Championship.”
Woods wore the frustrated expression of a man who had just walked off having signed for ten strokes worse! As he observed succinctly afterwards: “I turned a great round into a round. I played eight holes really well but I was a little bit frustrated after that.
“There were a lot of positives but my dropped shots were frustrating. You know me – I hate dropping a shot, especially when you have a good round going like that (one). When you drop a shot it hurts you.”
Defending champion Ernie Els matched Goosen’s eagle three at the last to slip in under the radar on ten under par after a round of 66. Currently in a share of sixth place, Els is now a live contender for a record fourth Dubai Desert Classic title, having set a new European Tour record of 70 consecutive cuts made, beating Berhard Langer's record of 69.
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