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23 April 2024

Jimenez wins Dubai Desert Classic

Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum presenting the trophy to Jimenez. (DENNIS B MALLARI)


Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Dubai Desert Classic for the first time yesterday defeating European No1 Lee Westwood on the third hole of a drama-packed playoff.

The clincher came on the green of the par-four ninth when Westwood missed a six-foot putt for par and Jimenez held his nerve to sink a five-footer.

It was the 16th European Tour win for the 46-year-old Jimenez and a record ninth title to have come after the age of 40. "So many years coming here, it's so exciting," he said. "There was a lot of pressure out there."

Going into the final day there had been a four-way tie for the lead on 11 under comprising Westwood, Jimenez, Asian No1 Thongchai Jaidee, and a second Spaniard in the shape of enterprising young gun Alvaro Quiros.

Westwood was the first to make a break with birdies at the third and fourth, but his momentum was stopped short by a double-bogey six at the fifth. The lead then chopped and changed between the four overnight leaders in the testing, windy conditions with a Quiros birdie putting him ahead for a while at the 10th.

But a nervy three-putter on the 14th re-established the four-way tie that had existed at the start of the day, only this time on 10 under.

That was when Jimenez hit one of the shots of the tournament, a magnificent approach which hit the 17th pin and left him with a tap-in putt for birdie. The man from Malaga then parred the par-five 18th and watched as Thongchai pulled a five-foot putt that would have forced a playoff.

That left Westwood in the final pairing as the only player left who could stop the Spaniard lifting the prestigious trophy. The world No3 was on the edge of the green in two, 60 feet away, and he hit a magnificent putt leaving him just a six-inch followup to bring Jimenez back out again. Back on the 18th minutes later, Westwood had a nine-footer to win on the first extra hole but left his birdie putt a fraction short.

Jimenez then stayed alive with a brave 15-footer for par at the second attempt to separate the two. Switching over to the par-four ninth it came down to a chipping and putting contest from the edge of the green, which Jimenez won by the narrowest of margins.

Thongchai finished third at 10 under with Italy's Edoardo Molinari and Germany's Martin Kaymer a shot further adrift.


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