Harding shoots 63 to finish tied-seventh in Dubai

Mon 28 Jan 2019

Harding shoots 63 to finish tied-seventh in Dubai


V Krishnaswamy in Dubai

January 28:  Even as Bryson DeChambeau wrote a new chapter in the history of Omega Dubai Desert Classic, there was Justin Harding scripting his own amazing story.

The 32-year-old Harding, who won twice in two starts on the Asian Tour last season, carded a nine-under-par 63 to finish in tied-seventh at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic held at Emirates Golf Club on Sunday.

The South African ended his campaign on a 15-under-par 273 total, nine shots behind DeChambeau who shot a 64 to earn his first career overseas win and his fourth win in nine starts.

The scientifically inclined DeChambeau, who confesses to be inspired by Albert Einstein, won on a record total of 264, beating Li Haotong’s 23-under-par achieved last year, and a seven-shot margin over Matt Wallace of England (68), who finished in second place on his own.

If 2018 saw DeChambeau win four times, Harding has also had four (two each in Africa and Asia), and Wallace had three, all on the European Tour, including the Hero Indian Open in 2018.

Flawless with seven birdies and an eagle, Harding equalled the week’s best card of 63 and rose to tied-seventh and earn a spot into next week’s Saudi International. Harding’s final round 63 included two hits into two different palm trees on the 18th. Yet he managed to par it with a brilliant fourth shot over the lake guarding the final green to within a foot of the pin.

Harding, who made his Dubai debut on an invitation, was ranked around 718th at the start of 2018 and he could be inside top-80 for a career-best when the new list comes out on Monday.

Harding rued his two bogeys on 10th and 12th in the third round. During the week he had just four bogeys – three of them came on Saturday. “That (third round) should have been better,” he said. Harding had birdied 10th on the remaining three days and on Sunday he birdied both. “That felt like four shots getting away.”

DeChambeau, who a day earlier had said he was happy with the score but not the game, smiled and said, “Today I was happy with my game. I executed a lot of great shots.”

Even as his superb win created a huge buzz, there was also talk of the time he often took for his shots, both on fairways and the greens and it could soon be a topic of discussion with the game’s organisers wanting it to become faster and stipulating just 40 seconds for each shot.

The American was off the block with three birdies in a row but had no more on the front stretch. He started the back nine with an eagle-birdie and dropped a bogey on 12th, his first in 21 holes. Towards the end he again shifted gears to birdie 13th, 14th and 17th.

Defending champion Li Haotong’s final challenge did not quite happen and neither did it come from any of DeChambeau’s other challengers, including vintage Ernie Els, who started the day at tied-third and slipped to tied-13th with a 71.

India’s Shubhankar Sharma made a smart move upwards with the week’s best card of 68 that saw him finish tied-29th, a morale booster after last week’s missed cut in Abu Dhabi. Saving the par on sixth, where he bogeyed each of the first three days and getting birdies on 10th and 18th all four days brought a smile on Sharma’s face.

“Still I would say my game was not all that great this week. I did some work on driving, but putts did not fall on some of the days, so all parts did not work at the same time. Hopefully it is coming together soon,” said Sharma.

Compatriot Gaganjeet Bhullar could not get his putter going but he ensured he did not drop more than one shot against four birdies, including one at the last.

“I wouldn’t say I am happy, but I not very worried either because the game is fine. The putts didn’t drop this week. Still mid-20s last week and in 30s this week means something should happen soon and it was not a write-off,” said Bhullar.

Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee (69) ended in 47th place on 280, while Australia’s Scott Hend (70) finished in tied-48th.

Other notable names include Australia’s Wade Ormsby (72) and American and Kurt Kitayama (74), who finished tied-64th and tied-71st respectively.