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Recap: The Desert Swing

Recap: The Desert Swing

From Lee Westwood's 25th European Tour victory at the first Rolex Series event of the season to Lucas Herbert's maiden win and Graeme McDowell's move back inside the World's top 50, here's what happened during the 2020 Desert Swing

Graeme McDowell

Return of the Rolex Series

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA marked the first of eight Rolex Series events on the 2020 Race to Dubai, and it was an occasion underpinned by Lee Westwood's history-making triumph.

He jumped to the top of the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, a position he still holds, with the 25th European Tour victory of his career, but it wasn't the only key takeaway from the first event of the Desert Swing.

Not only did the European Tour's new pace of play regulations come in to effect, but Payton Gordley became the first European eTour winner, Soren Kjeldsen joined the 600 club, and Tommy Fleetwood's runner-up finish confirmed his 43rd consecutive cut made worldwide (followed by his 44th with an 11th place finish in Dubai).

Lee Westwood makes European Tour history in Abu Dhabi

Westwood became just the third person in European Tour history to win a title in four different decades after claiming his 25th win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

Westwood, who finished with a final round 67, also became the eighth player to win multiple Rolex Series titles – two years after his 2018 Nedbank Golf Challenge victory.

"I can't believe I'm that old," said Westwood, of his four-decade winning streak.

"It's a long time when you say it. I won my first tournament in 1996 in Sweden. I won that tournament, Scandinavian Masters in three different decades, and now I’ve won here this week. The 20s could be the ones for me."

Lucas Herbert's maiden win in Dubai

Lucas Herbert earned his first European Tour title with a dramatic victory over Christiaan Bezuidenhout on the second play-off hole at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

As the early leaders struggled in the conditions, it was Bezuidenhout who held a two stroke lead in the 18th fairway before a costly mistake gave Herbert the chance to force him in to sudden death with back-to-back birdies to end his round.

Bezuidenhout seemed to hold the advantage on the first trip back up the 18 when Herbert found the water with his 'worst ever shot', but he managed to scramble a par before going on to hit the longest drive of the tournament at the next and making birdie to win.

"It's the best thing ever, it's so good," Herbert said after his Australia Day win, before referencing the devastating bushfires in his home country.

"There's some pretty bad stuff happening in Australia right now with the fires and Cam Smith said it a couple of weeks ago when he won, everyone around the world is behind us and hopefully we can keep fighting harder than I did on that first play-off hole.”

Soderberg: A record-breaking round in 96 minutes

Just a week after tougher regulations to combat slow play came into force, Sebastian Soderberg made European Tour history in Dubai by completing his final round at Emirates Golf Club in just 96 minutes.

Out on his own in the first tee time of the day at 7.10am, the Swede and his younger brother (and caddie) Jasper completed their round by 8.46am - just two minutes after the 11th group of the day had teed off.

"I just tried to play as fast as possible,” Soderberg said. "I felt like it would be a fun thing to do and I didn't necessarily think it would hurt my game too much at some points.

"I said we'll try and go as fast as possible first five or six holes but I took a little time on putts and all the shots and just ran in between. I played quite well in the beginning so we just kept going.

"I struggled the last two days so I figured it wouldn’t really hurt my game just to jog in between and not think too much. I think three over is not bad, with zero fairways hit."

Graeme McDowell scales the World’s top 50 at the Saudi International

Graeme McDowell ended a 2,037 day winning drought to clinch the 11th European Tour title of his career with an impressive two-stroke victory over defending champion Dustin Johnson at the Saudi Internationa owered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

His win, the first since a successful defence at the 2014 Open de France, helped the Northern Irishman achieve his goal of getting back inside the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since 2015.

"It's special," he said. "I've been working hard the last year and a half. I want to be back up there one more time just to be able to play against these guys.

"The game of golf is in such great shape, there are so many great players in the world, it's so exciting to be a top player in the world and I want to be back up there again. I'm very excited that it's happened a little faster than I expected but hopefully it's laying some foundations down for having a big year. I feel like I'm moving back in the right direction."

The best of the Desert Swing content

Watch below as Henrik Stenson takes on Sergio Garcia in the '14 club challenge', Andrew Johnston and Viktor Hovland go head to head in 'Luck of the draw', and Matt Wallace and Erik van Rooyen travel back in time on the European Tour to experience four decades of iconic Callaway drivers. Plus, Stenson answers the most searched golf questions!

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