Tiger Woods underlined his status as the world’s greatest player with a mesmerising final round performance to win the Dubai Desert Classic, conjuring a sizzling 65 to take the title by a shot from Martin Kaymer.
On a day of thrilling drama at the Emirates Golf Club, Woods emerged the victor after a quite sensational back nine of six under par 31 that culminated in a stunning up and down for a title winning birdie on the 18th green. It was a classic Woods moment, the kind of finish that only a man of his peerless mental fortitude could produce.
After a fine drive down the 18th fairway, Woods smashed a five wood to the 18th green and was unfortunate to see his ball come to rest in the thick rough on the fringe of the bunker at the back of the sloping green.
With his feet planted awkwardly in the bunker, the 32 year old chipped his ball onto the downslope, but such was the delicate nature of the shot, his ball stopped some 25 feet from the hole. Not to be undone, the World Number One refocused and with one gentle tap of his putter, drained his birdie putt into the middle of the cup, sending the watching thousands in the packed grandstands into delirium.
“It was a pretty exciting final round,” smiled Woods after receiving a cheque for €283,965.
“On 18 I hit a really nice drive, turned it around the corner, and hit a 5 wood up there and just flushed it. I was trying to hit a high fade in there and hold up against the wind, and I thought I hit it perfect where it was going to be just past the hole and flew even further than I thought.
“Then I’m thinking it's a hard bunker shot, but really not that bad and I get down there and it's not in the bunker. And I'm thinking, I could easily chip the ball in the water. You have to make your mistake short and if I leave it too short just chip up and try to make a par and probably not going to win the tournament but see what happens. Got to the green, and put went in.”
Having flown out of the blocks with three birdies in his opening four holes to get to within a stroke of Ernie Els and Henrik Stenson, Woods gave two shots back before the turn.
Had it been any other player, it could have been thought that his challenge was waning but Woods drew upon all of his powers to set up an exhilarating finish, birdieing the tenth hole to set the wheels in motion on what was to become a masterful back nine performance.
Any dramatic finish, of course, requires more than one main player, and with Louis Oosthuizen posting the clubhouse target of 13 under par after a his own outstanding 65, and Ernie Els and Kaymer playing behind Woods, everything fell into place for that amazing finish.
With Woods overtaking Oosthuizen on the clubhouse leaderboard at 14 under par 274, it was left to Els and Kaymer to try and tame the Tiger. Kaymer came up a shot short but has to be commended for his incredible birdie-birdie-eagle finish that left him on 13 under.
The only man who could topple the Tiger was three time Dubai desert Classic champion Els, who needed an eagle on the 18th to win, and a birdie to force the play-off. It is to Els’s eternal credit that he went for the eagle, but the South African’s three wood approach to the green was caught in a gust and found the water, resulting in a bogey six and a share of third place with Oosthuizen.
With that, Woods had done it again, taking the title for the second time in his career, and maintaining 100 per cent record for the year 2008, having played two and won two.