DUBAI (Reuters) - World number three Henrik Stenson blasted a final round 64 to clinch Dubai’s DP World Tour Championship on Sunday, also topping Europe’s money list for 2013 after his six-stroke victory in the desert finale.
The Swede, who followed up his triumph at the U.S. PGA Tour’s end-of-season FedExCup in September, pocketed the $1.33 million first prize and an additional $1 million from the tour’s bonus prize pool.
Victory in Dubai - his first on the European Tour this year - caps an amazing turnaround for Stenson, who 12 months ago was ranked outside the world’s top 100.
“Winning our final in Dubai in front of all my family and loads of friends, it’s a dream finish,” said Stenson.
“There have been a lot of small bits and pieces I’ve addressed with my team and they deserve huge credit in my success,” he said, naming his caddy, coach, physio and psychologist.
The 37-year-old began the day on 17-under, four shots ahead of Ian Poulter, his only realistic challenger for the Race to Dubai crown, formerly the European Order of Merit, while France’s Victor Dubuisson teed-off on 16-under.
Earlier in the season, Poulter bet Stenson $100 at odds of 10-1 he could overtake his friend on the money list, but Sunday’s conditions worked against the Englishman as a sand storm and swirling winds replaced the stifling clear skies of the first three days.
Poulter made a dire start, bogeying the first to drop only his sixth shot of the entire tournament. The 2012 Ryder Cup hero recovered with successive birdies at holes 2-3, but was unable to pressure the serene Swede.
“He’s my servant now,” said Stenson. “That’s the hardest I’ve had to work to win a $100 in my whole professional career. It was great, we pushed each other this whole final series - he was motivated and kept me looking forward.”
Stenson was unrelenting over four days on the Greg Norman-designed Earth course despite nursing a wrist injury.
He ended the first round two shots off the lead, but ahead of his money list rivals and by the halfway stage he had moved a stroke clear of the field and was never really troubled.
“I have to take my hat off to him,” said Poulter, 37.
”I’ve tried to run him down as hard as I possibly could, he’s been in incredible form the last six months and even today in the wind he kept his head down and pressed on through.
“I couldn’t get close enough. He’s the best player on the planet right now.”
On the final day in Dubai, Stenson crushed any fears he might falter with birdies on four of the opening seven holes.
At the 12th, the Swede lofted an exquisite 190-yard iron to within a few feet of the pin in what he later described as his best shot of the year. He fluffed that eagle chance, but tapped in for a birdie to move to 22-under.
“It was mine to lose from there,” said Stenson, who eventually ended on 25-under par 263 following a final-hole eagle. “It’s tough when you’ve got a five or six-shot lead with only two or three holes to go because you probably would have to break your leg to mess that up, but you’ve still got to focus and try and play simple.”
Poulter shook his head after successive pars at holes 14 and 15 and the world number 15’s disconsolate body language showed he knew his challenge was futile, even if he did sink birdies on the last two holes.
Poulter (66) and Dubuisson (71) carded 269 and 271 respectively.
Dutchman Joost Luiten scored a fourth round 66 to end 272, while Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (67) and English duo Luke Donald (67) and Lee Westwood (68) were tied on 273.
Reporting by Matt Smith; editing by Martyn Herman