DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Branden Grace successfully defended his Qatar Masters title on Saturday, becoming the first player to do so since the tournament began in 1998.
The South African shot a 3-under 69 on another wind-swept day at Doha Golf Club to win the second leg of the European Tour’s so-called “Desert Swing” by two shots over Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello (70) and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen (71).
Grace shot an overall 14-under 274 for his seventh European Tour title.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, the overnight leader by two shots, faded away with a 78 and finished tied for 13th at 281, while Spain’s Sergio Garcia (70) shared seventh alongside South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen (71) at 8-under 280.
Grace made the turn at 1 under with a lone bogey on the fifth after starting with a birdie and adding another on the sixth hole. The turning point came on the par-5 ninth, where Lawrie pulled his tee shot way left and finished with a double bogey to hand over the sole lead to Grace.
Grace is a traditionally strong finisher on the tough back nine here and the highlight Saturday was smashing his tee shot 327 yards on the par-5 18th, followed by an iron to 30 feet away and two-putting for a birdie.
“To win is tough, but to defend is even tougher,” Grace said. “It’s brutal conditions out there.”
Cabrera-Bello had one birdie and one double bogey in his first 15 holes, but finished in better weather with three straight birdies.
“It’s just a tough day, it was common to make mistakes,” he said.