Danny Willett holds on to win Dubai Desert Classic
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The English aren’t just coming; they have arrived. New champion Danny Willett may have been the headliner at the Dubai Desert Classic, but he was closely followed on the leader board by three of his compatriots. Andy Sullivan was joint runner-up alongside Rafa Cabrera-Bello, with Chris Wood and Tyrrell Hatton among those tied for eighth. Throw in the likes of British Masters champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood and it is clear that a new generation of Englishmen is on the rise behind established stars like Justin Rose and Paul Casey.
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This was Willett’s day, however. One stroke ahead of Cabrera-Bello overnight, the Yorkshireman stood over a 12-foot putt for birdie on the 18th green to maintain that slender edge – and holed it. Perhaps most impressive was that any positive momentum over the previous hour or so had belonged to the Spaniard and, to a lesser extent, Sullivan. But Willett, who never lost his lead during an endlessly exciting final day, was up to the task.
“I got down there and saw a nice line pretty quickly,” said Willett, whose closing 69 gave him an aggregate of 269, 19-under par, and earned him €402,670. “But I still had to hit it on that line and roll it at a good pace. It was about two-and-a-half cups outside the left lip. It would have been nice to have two for it bit to finish in that way was brilliant.”
Not quite so brilliant – but nearly – was world number two and defending champion, Rory McIlroy. The Irishman, strangely out of sorts over the front-nine in the first there rounds at least, closed with a seven-under par 65 to finish four shots back and T-6 alongside Henrik Stenson.