Lucas Herbert beats Christiaan Bezuidenhout in play-off to win Omega Dubai Desert Classic
Australian seals his first European Tour victory on the second hole of sudden-death battle
Lucas Herbert prevailed in a play-off, the Australian coming up trumps on Australia Day, and thoughts soon turned to those less fortunate back home.
“With everything that's gone on, if I can bring a little bit of joy to the guys who are struggling back there, then brilliant,” Herbert said in reference to the devastating wildfires that have scorched the country.
“None of my family or friends have lost anything, but I think the wildlife's been the biggest thing affected. You look online with social media and see the donations being made; like the things celebrities and sports stars are putting up for auction. It's phenomenal. They are getting behind everyone so much.
“There's a big sense of community within Australia that we are going to fight these fires and get through them. Fingers crossed for a little bit of rain – that might help, as well.”
The rain came to Emirates Golf Club as predicted on Sunday, accompanied by high winds and high tension. In the end, Herbert proved the most resilient, triumphing in the first extended Omega Dubai Desert Classic in a decade to record his first victory on the European Tour.
He began the day six back, then birdied the final two holes in regulation to climb to nine-under par. Rebounding from an opening bogey, it represented an incredible 68, given the conditions.
As the gale blew and galleries reached for umbrellas, Herbert joined as the clubhouse leader Christiaan Bezuidenhout, the South African who found the water 18 after laying up. Surely rocked by the error, he held his nerve to make bogey for a matching 68.
At one stage, overnight leader Arshun Wu looked set to seal the win, but stumbled through the trunk of his round to drop six shots in eight holes.
The stage seemed clear for Bryson DeChambeau to surge through, but the defending champion bogeyed the final four. The pair finished three shots and four shots shy of the play-off, respectively.
That Herbert and Bezuidenhout were the last men standing was reward for posting the day’s best scores. On the first play-off hole, Herbert even sent his second into the water way right of the intended target but, with his title rival on the green in three, displayed mountains of mettle to stiff his fourth. They both recorded fives.
“Thankfully, I had the worst shot I hit all week with the best shot I hit of the week to force the second play-off hole,” he said afterwards. “I was so proud of the way that I wedged it close and forced that into extra holes.”
In those conditions – “it was brutal out there" – and under that pressure, Herbert should be bursting with pride. Coming into the week ranked 223rd in the world, his birdie on the second play-off hole lifted him back into the top 100.
Finally a European Tour winner in his 50th attempt, he became only the second Australian to capture the Classic. Richard Green was the other, 23 years previously. Herbert is aged 24.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “I finished top 10 quite a few times and that was a pretty cool rush, but to win is something else.
"It's just such a good feeling, and all of the bad times and all of the hard times and all the missed cuts, they made up for that feeling on the 18th green there when we won.”
He has clearly made up with Dubai, having finished tied-seventh last year, on debut. “I love coming here,” Herbert said. “Down in the marina and down in the beach there, it's a phenomenal city. Obviously the golf course here with that backdrop ... it's pretty cool to watch golf shots take off into that. It's definitely one of the first events on the schedule when I write it down at the end of this year.”
His name is now etched alongside some pretty major players. Tiger Woods is engraved on the trophy, twice; Ernie Els three times. Seve Ballesteros has won it. More recently, Rory McIlroy tasted success there, twice. A four-time major champion, the Northern Irishman broke his tournament duck in Dubai, back in 2009.
“I know Rory won this start for his first European Tour win, so we are both in that club,” Herbert said. “That's a pretty cool club to be a part of, too.”
Updated: January 26, 2020 10:58 PM